Wyoming news briefs for July 8


Stratospheric balloon passes above Powell

POWELL  A mysterious shiny dot in the skies above Powell on Tuesday night turned out to be not so mysterious. 

The bright object — which gleamed brighter than a star or planet in the setting sun — was a stratospheric balloon. Flight tracking data indicated the balloon is operated by Loon, a project from Google’s parent company that has sought to provide internet service from the stratosphere to underserved, remote areas. 

FlightAware data indicated the balloon, identified as HBAL546, has been traveling the country — being spotted in Missouri, Nebraska, Utah and Colorado in recent days. 

The dot in the sky generated some social media buzz when it passed over the Red Lodge area on Monday. 

“... It’s spying on all of us,” offered one resident on the Red Lodge Buzz Facebook page. 

Another resident reacted with disappointment after commenters on the thread noted the unidentified object was in fact a balloon and not of extraterrestrial origin. 

“I was hoping to be abducted,” she joked.

After floating around the Red Lodge area, the balloon drifted toward Clark, Cody, Burlington, Worland and Greybull by Wednesday morning. By early evening, it was over Shell. 

Data from FlightAware indicates the balloon has been traveling at 53,000 to 65,000 feet above the earth — well above the height where airplanes operate. 

There was some remaining mystery to the balloon, however, as Loon has been winding down its operations; the company announced in January that it was closing after being unable to build a sustainable business model. An email to Loon asking whether the company’s balloons and internet service are still operational was not immediately returned.

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No damage in recent 4.1 quake south of Ten Sleep 

WORLAND  The second earthquake in four months south of Ten Sleep struck about 3:17 p.m. Sunday afternoon, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website. 

The quake measured 4. 1 magnitude 42 kilometers south of Ten Sleep (14 miles) with a depth of 14.4 kilometers (8.9 miles). 

No damage was reported but several people reported feeling the quake. 

The previous quake this year was 9 kilometers further south of Ten Sleep on April 13 at 6:22 a.m. The magnitude was nearly identical to Sunday’s at 3.9. Depth was 11.9 kilometers. 

The location in April was nearly identical to the location of two quakes in 2017, one a 2.5 magnitude quake on Nov. 5, 2017, listed as 52 kilometers south of Ten Sleep with a depth of 5 kilometers; and another a 2.6 magnitude 51km (31.7 miles) south of Ten Sleep on Oct. 31, 2017. Both quakes were just southwest of the one in April. 

In 2017 there were five earthquakes south of Ten Sleep, according to the U.S.G.S. earthquake information at earthquake.usgs. gov. 

In addition to the two quakes noted above the other three were a magnitude of 4.0 on Nov. 3, 35.4 miles south of Ten Sleep (57 km), a 3.2 magnitude on Oct. 31, 34.7 miles south of Ten Sleep (56km), a 2.9 magnitude a 2.6 magnitude 31.7 miles (51km) south of Ten Sleep on Nov. 5. 

The quake Sunday of 4.1 magnitude was the largest magnitude of the quakes since 2000. 

According to the Wyoming State Geological Survey there are several fault lines in the area including a Tensleep Fault and a Big Trails Fault.

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Teton County bans most open fires earlier than any other time in 'recent memory'

JACKSON — Teton County followed federal land managers Tuesday in enacting restrictions that ban open fires, with exceptions, in the unincorporated parts of the county.

Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Chief Brady Hansen, who serves as the Teton County Fire Warden, told the Teton County Board of County Commissioners this is early.

“It's, in any recent memory, the earliest that the fire warden has ever proposed going into restrictions,” Hansen said, adding that other Wyoming counties are doing the same.

Hansen said that Sublette, Sweetwater, Lincoln and Park Counties were all planning to enact fire restrictions this week, and Uinta and Fremont County have already done so. 

The restrictions put in place Tuesday with commissioners' unanimous vote are called "partial fire closures."

"Going into fire restrictions will limit what kind of burning we can allow," Hansen said. "It's not a full closure in that there are some exemptions."

The fire chief said the county has not implemented a full closure, in anybody's memory, for at least 20 years.

All of Teton County is experiencing at least moderate drought, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System. Seventy-three percent of the county is experiencing severe drought, and concerns about fire danger have been high for months.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest, which earlier in July joined Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge to enact fire restrictions, has found more abandoned campfires than usual in its campsites this season. There’s also been little precipitation, and hot, dry temperatures are predicted for the foreseeable future.

Hansen also said that local firefighting resources had been drawn down to fight fires elsewhere.

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Worland City Council allows exception for decorative front yard vehicle

WORLAND — The Worland City Council approved the first variance for a vehicle parked on the front yard after passing a new ordinance earlier this summer. 

In a letter to the council, Moises and Amber Vega said the 1914 Model-T that adorns the corner of their property at Eighth and Grace was specifically acquired as lawn art. 

They state in the letter “We continue to make our property aesthetically pleasing for not only our family, but also for our neighborhood and community. The location of the Model-T is positioned so that it is highly visible to everyone traveling along South Eighth Street and Grace Avenue, while not interfering with the driver's ability to clearly and safely observe the roadway. 

The request for the exception was approved unanimously.

In addition to approving the exception, the council also approved a motion that future councils are allowed to revoke the exception if the lawn art is not aesthetically pleasing or if it becomes a problem. 

Prior to the motion, City Attorney Kent Richins said the council could set any conditions including a time limit or the fact that the “lawn art” may have to be removed if the council needed to utilize the right-of-way since the vehicle partially sits in the right-of-way. 

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Two-vehicle accident claims Manderson man

LOVELL — An 80-year-old Manderson man died and two Greybull residents were injured in a two-vehicle accident Monday, July 5, on Wyoming 433, a two-lane bypass road that runs between Manderson and Worland. 

The accident occurred near milepost 17, just south of Manderson, and was reported to the Wyoming Highway Patrol at 3:31 p.m. 

An investigation determined that both vehicles — in front, a 2014 Nissan Titan, and behind it, a 2007 Cadillac Escalade – were southbound when the driver of the Cadillac failed to notice the driver of the Nissan slowing to make a turn. The Cadillac

proceeded to collide with the Nissan, causing it to exit the roadway and overturn.

The driver of the Nissan has been identified as Thomas A. Jahrig, 80, of Manderson. He was not wearing his seatbelt and succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the crash.

Micah E. Mass, 33, of Greybull was the driver of the Cadillac. According to the WHP, Maas wasn’t wearing his seat belt. A juvenile passenger in his vehicle, however, was in a child seat restraint. Both were transported to South Big Horn County Hospital for injuries sustained in the crash.

The WHP reports that driver inattention and speed on the part of Maas are being investigated as potential contributing factors in the accident.

Jahrig was the 48th fatality on Wyoming’s roadways in 2021 – compared to 47 in 2020, 84 in 2019 and 47 in 2018, to date.

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