TORRINGTON — Lingle residents awoke to firefighters at their door telling them to consider evacuating after a breach was discovered in the Pathfinder Irrigation Canal early Friday morning. “What do I do?” one resident asked.
Firefighters told residents to seal their houses as well as they could, get their most prized belongings and head to either another safe location or North Hills Baptist Church.
Pastor Rev. David Anderson welcomed Lingle residents into the church as they arrived. The church provided food, water, shelter and entertainment for the guests.
“It’s amazing to see a community come together like this,” Anderson told the Telegram. “We had the space, and we have some very dedicated members of the church who are willing to help at the drop of a hat.”
Anderson said he was very proud of the work done by the community and was happy their church could provide refuge to those in need. While many of the residents living in Lingle were fortunate to have no impact on their homes and businesses, others were not as lucky.
No lives were lost as a result of the flooding. However, a great deal of property was permanently damaged, lost or otherwise destroyed as a result of the flooding.
Dee Anderson, owner of Anderson Carpet was one who wasn’t so fortunate. Anderson stood on the bank of the drainage ditch east of her business as she watched the water flood in from the north and west. The flood waters filled the area surrounding her business.
Despite volunteer efforts to place sandbags around the business, the water levels continued to rise and water eventually entered her business, completely flooding the buildings.
Dan Niles, a TDS employee, and his daughter lost everything in their duplex located west of Anderson’s Carpet.
Another victim to the floods, the Greenwald family, had the entirety of their farm fill with water. Fortunately, they were able to act swiftly, with the help of the community, to get their cattle out before they met a gloomy end. Despite their efforts, nearly everything was lost. The family reported they had been able to save much of their personal belongings, but the rest was lost.
Goshen County resident Linda Meyer wrote on Facebook, “Many prayers needed. Another canal break in Goshen County. Got the call at 6:30 this morning from our friends who needed their cattle moved out before the water arrived at their house and feedlot. The cattle got moved out! Barely! Truck after truck after truck showed up. Our farming community can really pull together. It was incredible. Friend after friend showed up to move their household…”
Volunteers from all over the county showed up to help with the efforts.
The Lingle Volunteer Fire Department, Lingle Police Department, Town of Lingle, Torrington Volunteer Fire Department, Goshen County Sheriff’s Office, Goshen County Emergency Management, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Goshen Hole Fire Department, Veteran Fire Department, Federal Emergency Management Agency and local elected officials were just a few of the organizations involved with the efforts.
Another victim to the floods, Jered Morrison had his entire property completely surrounded and subdued by flood waters. Cornstalks lined the sides of his house and filled the area. At one point, water could be seen flowing above a large fence on the property, which is estimated at around 5 feet tall.
Local volunteers worked tirelessly filling sandbag after sandbag in the hot summer sun. The sandbags were then loaded into personally owned pickups, all-terrain vehicles, tractors and trailers to be taken to residences, businesses and other areas which were most at risk for immediate flooding.
Trucks and trailers filled with sand lined Highway 26 as they made their way to the west edge of Lingle. The trucks dropped sand on the roadways and Highway 26 in an attempt to stop or divert the flood waters as they pressed eastward. Highway 26 was closed for a portion of the day near the west edge of Lingle as the flood waters coursed over the highway.
Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers directed and diverted traffic with the help of the Lingle Police Chief Endra Andrews and the Lingle Volunteer Fire Department.
Tourists coming through the area were surprised to see all the emergency vehicles and reflective vests as they entered the town.
“What’s going on?” and “Is everything okay?” were common questions for those driving through.
Due to the shutdown of Highway 26, travelers were rerouted to either Wyoming State Highway 157 or Highway 85 to continue on their journeys.
After Goshen County Commissioners issued an emergency declaration, Gov. Mark Gordon activated the Wyoming National Guard to mobilize to the Lingle and Goshen County area to assist with the breach.
As work progressed into the afternoon and evening, a Wyoming National Guard HH-60 Sikorsky Black Hawk landed in the field south of North Hills Baptist Church.
The helicopter had arrived to deliver large sandbags which would be used to plug the breach in the canal wall. However, complications arose, and the sandbags never arrived. Severe weather in the area caused the Black Hawk to have to return to its base prematurely.
Those present were offered tours of the helicopter despite the helicopter having to leave early. Local first responders were also provided with hands-on instruction of the various capabilities of the Black Hawk.
The exact cause of the breach in the canal remains a mystery. Some have speculated it was caused by animals burrowing into the side of the canal wall, while others have speculated it was caused by an end-gun of an irrigation pivot. Others have speculated it was a case of “everything going wrong at the same time.”
The investigation into what exactly caused the breach continues but the answer will likely remain unknown.
The emergency incident closed out in the evening, but work remains to bring the community back to normal.
Piles of sand, used to create impromptu diversion dams, remain on the town streets and sandbags line the outside of homes and businesses. Businesses and residences remain filled with the “muck” left from floodwaters.
There is a long road ahead for many Lingle area residents who are helping out their friends and neighbors with clean-up.
The Red Cross of Wyoming issued a press release Saturday which stated, “Red Cross of Wyoming is assisting one adult and one child affected by a flood on Highway 26 in [East] Lingle, Wyo. on July 1. Red Cross assistance can provide care, comfort, mental health and health services, disaster supplies, lodging, and assistance for other immediate needs. Further assistance will be provided as needed. If you have questions, please contact SE Wyoming Disaster Program Manager Melissa Amerman at (307) 287-3918; [email protected]
July 1-4, crews with the Pathfinder Irrigation District and local construction companies worked to repair the breached wall of the Pathfinder Canal. Work on the wall of the canal remains underway.
An account has been established at First State Bank in Torrington to benefit Dan Niles and his daughter. Those wishing to donate can contact First State Bank by visiting the office at 1410 East Valley Road, Torrington or by calling (307) 532-5600.