Runoff/snowpack news: Many eyes are on the Yampa River

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From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

He has been looking at river water depth information available on the National Weather Service in Grand Junction website. On Tuesday, the site showed that the Yampa River was running at about 4.75 feet through Steamboat Springs. The forecast calls for it to remain at that level or lower through Sunday…

Flood stage for the Yampa is 7.5 feet. The moderate flood stage is 8.5 feet, and the major stage is 9.5 feet. The Elk River has gotten above 7 feet but has not yet reached the first flood stage of 7.5 feet. Like the Yampa, the Elk is expected to remain at its current level of 6.6 feet or lower through Sunday…

Earlier this month, the Tower measuring site at 10,500 feet on the summit of Buffalo Pass hit an all-time record, not just for that location but for Colorado. The snowpack held the equivalent of 72.6 inches of water, and that number has grown. But has it peaked? There was 74.2 inches of water measured at the site Saturday and Sunday. On Tuesday, it was measured at 73.9 inches.

Meanwhile Denver Water has started releasing from Dillon Reservoir in anticipation of the runoff. Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

As of May 20, the reservoir was at an elevation 8997.73 feet, about 20 feet below full and one of the lowest levels on record for this date. In On this date in 1995, after another big winter, the reservoir was about two feet lower, at 8995.26 feet. Despite the precautionary drawdown that year, Summit County still experienced some significant flooding around Father’s Day, when Valley Brook Road, in Breckenridge, washed out, and high water inundated some basements and septic systems in the Blue River area, south of Breckenridge.

No surprise, some of the lowest reservoir levels recorded have come after big droughts. In March of 2003, the water level was all the way down to 8960.86 feet, about 57 feet below full pool. And the lowest reading Steger found in his records was on April 29, 1978, when the reservoir dropped all the way to 8,952.73 feet after the 1976-’77 drought that spurred Colorado ski resorts to ramp up snowmaking.

As of May 19, the snowpack in the Blue River Basin was at an extraordinary 221 percent of average. Assistant county manager Thad Noll said local officials are prepping for high water and keeping an eye on some of the usual creekside spots, including neighborhoods alongside North Tenmile Creek in Frisco, and especially the Upper Blue.

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