Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

Waterspouts, landslides and massive floods


Mother Nature can take on some ornery appearances across America this time of year – even here in Wyoming.

Although tornadoes are rare in the Cowboy State, dust devils and waterspouts are quite common.

Recently an amazing image of a waterspout was photographed by weather spotter Kathy Milton Raper along the Green River Lakes in Sublette County at 7,782 feet above sea level.

The National Weather Service staff went to the archives and was unable to ever ascertain a report of anything like this at this elevation in the history of recording weather.

Raper and her husband Charlie were four-wheeling in the area when the incident happened.

Also in the area were Amy Hemenway and her three daughters. She also took photos of the waterspout and, like the Rapers, endured a hailstorm with stones the size of coins. Kathy was quoted on Pinedale Online that even though they were wearing helmets, heavy gloves and heavy jackets, the bombardment “hurt.”

Raper further stated: “On May 31, it started hailing hard. We parked in the trees on the bench above The Bend trying to avoid the hail. Then we spotted this waterspout in the sky. When we first saw the funnel it was down the river towards Dollar Lake. We could see water being sucked up out of the lake and then red dirt flying. We watched the funnel move directly above us.”

More info can be found on National Weather Service web sites or on Pinedale Online.

Just north of that area in the heart of booming Jackson, folks have been dealing with another act that might have been caused by Mother Nature or perhaps with an assist from developers.

A landslide threatened homes, apartments and businesses back in April. One home was split in half by the sloughing off of a massive amount of dirt.

Estimates for the repair range from $8 million to $30 million, which would be daunting for most communities in Wyoming, but probably not for Jackson, which boasts the highest home prices in the country.

When the slide first started, it was hoped it was just a little slip. But on April 9, the town evacuated residents of more than 40 homes and apartment units. On April 17, the slide made national news when big chunks of land peeled off from the near 100-foot hillside.

The fact that over 50 people were killed in a massive landslide just a month earlier in Oso, WA gave everyone involved the jitters.

Best story to come out of the slide was by Jackson Hole News and Guide reporter Cindy Carcamo who wrote:

“Just a few years after Thomas Ralston moved to town, a chimney fire burned down his home. Last month he was driving when a 3,000-pound boulder fell from a mountain onto the roof of his brand-new truck.

“So when police visited his condo to tell him he had an hour to evacuate because a landslide was threatening the building, he responded the only way he could. He sort of laughed.”

She quoted him as saying: “What are you going to do? That’s part of the game when you move to a place like this. Things like this happen. We accept that. We’re at 6,000 feet in the middle of the Rockies. That’s why we live here. We don’t wallow in self-pity.”

Folks in Cheyenne were clobbered by a monster hailstorm in recent weeks that knocked out windows and ruined roofs. I am sure it brought back memories of 29 years ago on Aug. 3 when a record rain fell on that city, causing flooding and killing 12 people.

Some six inches of rain fell in less than four hours, which sent five-foot walls of water surging through the capitol city. Several of the victims were trapped in basements where they were hiding from potential tornadoes.

That storm struck at nightfall with lots of lightning which caused some fires plus two inches of hail that piled into drifts six feet high, according to media reports.

Then-mayor Don Erickson denied that it was a 100-year flood event. “Cheyenne should not have another one of these for 2,000 years.”

One of the heroes of that day, according to news reports, was Robert van Alyne Jr., 33, who tied himself to a utility pole so he could free three people from a car. The rope broke after he rescued two of them and he ended up drowning along with the third person, a young girl, that he was trying to rescue.

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at or at fine book stores.


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