Runoff news: Garfield County is starting to prepare for possible runoff flooding

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Most officials contacted for this story now predict that peak runoff, which normally would be happening in late May, will not arrive until the latter part of June. “The water’s peak should have been about a week ago,” said Tanny McGinnis, spokeswoman for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. Now she expects it to fall in the middle of June…

She said free sandbags are available at the county’s road and bridge facility near the Garfield County Regional Airport, where they were delivered a week ago…

In general, however, she said the county is expecting to get some warning from its neighboring counties upriver once the snow begins to melt in earnest. “The high water will hit Routt County and Eagle County before it gets to us,” she predicted. “We’ll have several hours of notice, at least.” The confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, she said, “are the areas they’re really keeping an eye on right now,” because the confluence area has been known to flood in the past…

Estimates of the snowpack in the mountains above the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys range as high as 400 percent of normal, according to recent news reports. But such numbers can be deceptive, according to Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service in Colorado. He explained that the “percent of normal” statistics relate to comparisons of the current snow depth to the average depth of the snow at a certain point in time. But as time passes, the average historical snow depth decreases sharply, so that in a year such as this one, the percent of normal increases to really high values simply because it’s being compared to a much lower number that is more typical for late May. But, he said, “That’s still a lot of water, a lot of snow.”

From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

“In spring, creeks and streams can be particularly dangerous as flows are often higher and faster than they are during the summer months and the water temperature is just above freezing,” said county emergency manager Joel Cochran…

“The rivers are deceptively dangerous this time of year,” said Sheriff John Minor. “During spring runoff, there is an incredible amount of debris in the water, and some of it is just under the surface” he said.

From the National Weather Service via the Cortez Journal:

Spring snow melt has caused high flows on many rivers and creeks in western Colorado and eastern Utah. However, cooler weather this spring has delayed the snow melt and kept copious amounts of snow at higher elevations especially in northwest and west central Colorado, as well as in northeast Utah. Therefore, river flows have not yet peaked. At higher flows, river banks can quickly become saturated and unstable. Caution is urged near waterways, as river banks can erode or collapse unexpectedly. Do not let children play near high flowing rivers, creeks, and canals.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Armstrong):

The weather should start clearing Monday as the jet stream dips down over California, causing it to bow above Colorado, pulling warm dry conditions into the mountains, according to the Weather Service’s La Niña guru Mike Baker. Grand County could see temperatures start to warm up pretty fast with nighttime temperatures remaining above freezing for most of the week, Baker said. This is good if you’re a river raft guide, but maybe not so great if you’re a town manager worried about flooding…

As La Niña weakens in coming weeks, the jet stream should begin moving north, Baker said, leaving Colorado out of its path.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

“We’re looking at all-time-high flows,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water. “Our minimum (estimate) would be an all-time record.” That means plenty of water for farmers and residents, the danger of possible flooding and both highs and lows for outdoor recreation…

Water and safety officials are worried about flooding if record snowpack disappears quickly, along with rain runoff. The snowpack is at 254 percent of average for this time of year, when snow typically already is melting…

Both Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir will be full by the end of June.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The Poudre River is expected to remain low for most of the next week with almost no risk of flooding, but after that, all bets are off. “The next few days are fine because the temperatures are going to remain cool,” said hydrologist Treste Huse of the National Weather Service in Boulder.

From the Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

“If we can get through the Fourth of July we’ll be really pleased,” said Lisa Reeder, operations manager for Eagle-based Timberline Tours. “This year we’re pretty much guaranteed to get there, and we could see good water on the Eagle until Aug. 1.”

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Carie Canterbury):

The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported May 1, snowpack statewide was 135 percent of average, the highest since 1995, and the snowpack in the Colorado River basin was 151 percent of average, the highest since 1993…

John Van Oort, district 14 and 15 water commissioner for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said the snowpack started to make its way downhill a couple of weeks ago, but stopped because it turned cold again. He said only Mother Nature knows when the frigid water will make its way down to the Arkansas River.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Pat Ferrier):

Snowpack near the top of Poudre Canyon is more than 2½ times greater than last year when water ran higher and faster than it had in almost two decades…

A delayed, steady runoff – like manna from heaven – can sustain a rafting season well into August, and sometimes until Labor Day, said Pat Legel, owner of A Wanderlust Adventure, celebrating its 30th year of rafting the Poudre. Current conditions are similar to 1995 when spring was cool and rain fell 60 out of 61 days, Legel said…

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