Green River Star -

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By David Martin

Rock Springs floods Tuesday afternoon


Stephanie Thompson

A car attempts to drive through a large pool of water in Rock Springs Tuesday.

For Julie Porter, the moment the water started flowing through her insurance office was the moment she decided to grab her kids and get out of the building.

Porter, an insurance agent, has an office on Broadway in Rock Springs, which was where some of the worst flooding in the city took place Tuesday evening. Mayor Carl Demshar said Broadway, as well as North Front Street and South Front Street, looked like rivers flowing through the downtown portion of the city. As of Wednesday morning, the pedestrian underpass beneath the Union Pacific Railroad was completely submerged.

The water on Broadway, according to Demshar, came from Dead Horse Creek near D Street. Demshar said the storm systems along the creek were open and operating at the time of the flooding, but the amount of water passing through the storm system was too much for it to handle. The water overflowed and flowed into businesses throughout the area, including Porter's insurance agency.

Porter said she didn't anticipate the amount of damage the flood ultimately caused. Water swept through the insurance office and nearly made its way into the business behind Porter, New Studio Photography. Much of the water ended up draining into basement storage rooms utilized by both Porter and the photo studio. Attempting to leave the building, Porter said she was unable to walk through the current on either side of the building to get to her vehicle. After walking outside through the New Studio Photography entrance, a friend with a truck was able to pick her and her children up and drive them to her vehicle.

After the water subsided, many of the streets had deposits of silt and mud. The inside of many of the businesses affected by the flood, mud could be seen caked onto the floors. At Porter's business, friends and family were busy trying to remove as much mud and moisture from the carpet as they could. Mud, in some places almost an inch deep, had been left throughout the building. Pumps were being utilized in the basement storage rooms to remove as much of the standing water as possible. 

The insurance agent faces an ironic situation when it comes to the insurance on her business. Because the event involves natural flooding, she isn't covered with her own insurance. The policy covered everything, including flooding as a result of a man-made source such as a pipe break, however only federal flood insurance would cover Tuesday night's flood.

The Historic Photo Studio

"Next week, the (Sweetwater County Historical Museum) takes them next week," New Studio Photography Owner Diane Butler said.

She refers to the thousands of photo negatives the museum recently purchased. More than 70,000 in total, along with some photo equipment and backdrops, were sold to the museum earlier this year. Butler said she had boxes of negatives moved out of the basement as soon as she could to prevent them from being damaged. While the negatives are out of harm's way, Butler said she may have to send them to the museum soon to prevent them from being affected by the additional moisture. 

Other equipment wasn't so fortunate. Walking around in 2-3 inches of standing water, Butler points out a set of 16-milimeeter film projectors partially submerged in the dark brown liquid.

"I'd really hate to lose these," she said.

This is the second major flood Butler has dealt with at New Studio Photography. While the current flood is bad, Butler said the flood that happened June 16, 1989 was much worse for the business. At that time, she said the studio's owner had opened the back door and let a large wave of water flow into the studio's ground floor. This time, the water only made it to the basement. Regardless, the event has caused Butler to wonder if it's time to move the historic business to another location, out of the building it has called home since the 1930s.

Strange Weather

The storms hitting Sweetwater County have been abnormally strong, according to Mayor Demshar.

"We've had rain in the last two days like I've never seen, and I grew up in Rock Springs," he said.

According to the National Weather Service, 1.13 inches of rainfall was recorded at the Rock Springs/Sweetwater County Airport Tuesday. An inch of rain, spread across the approximately 18 square miles the city encompasses, results in 312.8 million gallons of water, according to the United States Geological Service's rainfall calculator.


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