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Some Lusk businesses reopen after flood, temporary bridge eyed on main highway through town

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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — Three weeks after a flood swept through part of the small eastern Wyoming town of Lusk, some businesses have reopened and roads have been repaired, although a bridge on a main highway through town remains out.

Bloomers, a gift and antique store on Main Street, reopened Monday, co-owner Twila Barnette said.

"We do have a fresh load of flowers in our cooler, so we're feeling better about things," Barnette said.

Jackie Bredthauer, executive director of the Niobrara Chamber of Commerce, said about three quarters of the 31 businesses that sustained damage in the June 4 flood have reopened.

"Some aren't to full capacity. Like one of the gas stations only has one gas pump at this point in time," she said Thursday.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation is working to erect a temporary bridge on U.S. 85 on the north side of Lusk. The bridge over railroad track had collapsed when the Niobrara River swelled beyond its banks because of heavy rain.

WYDOT spokesman Bruce Burrows said a 200-foot long temporary bridge is going to be put in as soon as all the pieces arrive. The original bridge was only about 60 feet long, but the flood had eroded the abutments on either side of the bridge, requiring a longer span, he said.

Engineers hope to have the temporary bridge in place sometime next month, Burrows said.

"Putting this temporary bridge in will help until we can get everything organized and planned to build a permanent replacement," he said.

Planning has begun for a new, permanent bridge, which will cost millions of dollars, Burrows said, noting that construction could begin before the end of the year.

"The intent is to get it done as quickly as possible," he said.

A detour for light trucks and cars is available through town, but heavy trucks must detour around Lusk on state Highway 270.

"The detour route that's in place has been apparently working well," Burrows said. "It's restored a little bit of normalcy."

The damage cost from the flood is still being assessed.

Gov. Matt Mead has requested a federal disaster declaration in hopes of obtaining federal aid.

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