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Major ice jam causes flood

I had planned to wrap up the Douglas Prisoner of War series this week, but with the ice jams and flooding in Worland and other towns along the Big Horn River, I just had to add my two cents worth. 

I still contend that every Wyoming small town is the same. We just have similar news at different times. As a weekly newspaper reporter in Wyoming, all you have to do is learn how to spell different names – Basque in Buffalo and Swedish or Norwegian in Saratoga. – Dick Perue.

News of a major ice jam on the Big Horn River and flooding in and around Worland brings to mind a disastrous flood in the town of Saratoga on the Upper North Platte River in February 1962.

An article written by Dick Perue in the Feb. 15, 1962, issue of The Saratoga Sun, in part, reads:

“Tons of ice and water jammed against the Bridge Street Bridge in Saratoga Sunday night, taking out three pilings and damaging six others.

“Workmen spent several hours dynamiting the ice to jar it loose from the bridge. However, little progress was made until a tree, which had lodged under the ice against the bridge, was blasted loose, along with a portion of the structure.

“Major flooding of the town occurred as the ice flow built a large dam against the bridge sending water flowing through the streets of downtown Saratoga.

“Cause of the ice flow was a chinook that hit the valley in early February weakening the ice and raising the water, in combination with a crawler tractor happening to cross the river on the ice – and breaking through – about 25 miles upstream. As the water rose large pieces of ice were dislodged and sent downstream taking the rest of the frozen river with them.

“Chunks of ice over 100 feet in diameter and more than a foot thick were pushed over a half mile from river banks onto meadows and islands from the Wyoming/Colorado state line to town.”

Perue added, the bridge had to be removed and a new one built.

God willing and the river doesn’t rise, I plan to conclude the Douglas POW series next “Postcard.”