Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rising water

While home last weekend I got a little firsthand exposure to the odd weather eastern Wyoming is experiencing this winter. While flooding occurs somewhat regularly where I'm from in the summer, our winters are usually fairly dry. Flooding in mid-February isn't common.

But, that doesn't mean it can't happen. This is a road on our ranch. I came around the corner you can see and was met by this. Fortunately the road still had a bottom in it (I didn't sink very deep), and we made it through with our feed pickup without issue. However, the area I'm from is known for its mud, as it's a unique combination of clay, sand and gumbo that is a real mess to deal with.
There is a culvert under all that mess somewhere. It's either had the ends smashed in, or there was simply too much water for it.

This is happening over a wide area of the eastern side of the state and is causing some issues.
We've lost one calf that we know of due to the cow slipping on ice. While the water is running in these photos, it still freezes most nights, and causes an accumulation of ice all over pastures.

Like here. This is just one of our pastures, and you can see the potential for a very slick situation if the temperature drops. Ice buildup poses a serious risk to pregnant cows. It can also result in more backward calves, and has us a little concerned about our heifers that will start calving in a couple weeks.
It's also just a mess to have to drive around in while feeding, checking water and hauling hay, and has set schedules back for a lot of people.

This is Dogie Creek, and is usually dry year-round except when it floods. It's certainly usually dry this time of year.
But, regardless of all the mud, water and ice, it's hard for people to say anything negative about moisture where I'm from, which is a semi-arid region. We're all cautiously optimistic these unusually wet conditions will last through the spring and summer months, and result in another year of abundant grass growth.
However, no one would complain too much if it dried up a little from now through the month of March, when most people are calving in the area. As I've mentioned before, weather has a huge impact on day to day ranching activities, and is watched and discussed almost constantly.

Another county road where water has caused parts of the road to wash out. I only drove it in the dark while home, so I didn't get any photos for you. But, it's very rough and very muddy in spots.

This is just south of Lance Creek, and is usually a trickle this time of year.

As you can see, it's flowing right along.

This is even further south of Lance Creek, and again is usually dry this time of year.
These conditions have made feeding more challenging, and increased tension in some areas. Flowing water in February, and the resulting ice when it freezes, doesn't have many fans in eastern Wyoming.
But, there is always a bright side, and another positive aspect of this moisture is that there isn't a frost this year, which means the ground is open and can soak up the water, which is a good sign for early spring grass growth.

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