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[Updated] U.S. 20 through Wind River Canyon could reopen Wednesday following rock slides

[Updated] U.S. 20 through Wind River Canyon could reopen Wednesday following rock slides

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U.S. 20 between Thermopolis and Shoshoni was expected to reopen as early as Wednesday morning following a series of rock and mud slides in Wind River Canyon.

Wyoming Department of Transportation officials cleared the road Tuesday but wanted to wait out anticipated showers that could dislodge more debris.

"We got everything cleaned up, but we're waiting to see if more rock is going to fall," Robin Clapp, a maintenance foreman at WYDOT's Riverton office, said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Fremont County Transportation Department closed several rural roads Tuesday after motorists seeking alternate routes around the canyon became stranded. Several individuals became stuck on muddy roads and required assistance from Hot Springs County Search and Rescue, according to a news release.

Dry Bridger Creek, Bridger Creek and Nowood roads are all impassable due to recent rain and snowfall. 

Earlier Tuesday, specialist Cody Beers said officials were considering hiring contractors to help clear U.S. 20.

Beers estimated the slide, located 10 miles south of Thermopolis, was at least a quarter of a mile wide and 6 to 8 feet deep.

"I've been up there four times in the last two days, and they've done a really good job of cleaning things up," Beers said.

Engineers will continue to evaluate the condition of the roadway underneath the mud and debris.

"Long-term, there are several major projects that we're going to have to do in there," Beers said, "but the goal right now is to get the road open."

No injuries were reported in the slides, though officials shuttled three people to different sides of the canyon to retrieve required medical prescriptions.

Slides blocked travel in both directions Sunday evening. Crews and heavy equipment began working to clear the road Monday morning, Beers said.

Beers said mud and rock also took out about 300 feet of rail track across the Big Horn River. Railroad crews are still working to repair the track.

U.S. 16 between Buffalo and Deer Haven Lodge also closed Sunday night due to winter conditions. The highway reopened Monday morning, but a crash at milepost 46 caused more delays.

The National Weather Service says minor flooding was expected along the river in Washakie County, including around the city of Worland.

Elsewhere, the Powder River in Johnson County was running out of its banks, flooding fields along its northern route. The river at Sussex reached a record crest of 15.63 feet on Monday.

U.S. 212 and Beartooth Pass in northern Wyoming reopened Tuesday after wintry weather prompted officials to close the highway over the weekend.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow visual and digital editor Alan Rogers on Twitter @alanmrogers


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