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With the warm weather today, we are expecting to see some snow melt run-off tonight coming into Lake Estes. Right now, we are planning on bumping up releases from Olympus Dam to the lower Big T to about 450 cfs. We are expecting to make that change around midnight. Typically, snow melt run-off reaches Estes Park and Lake Estes late at night.It is possible releases might be higher than 450 cfs, or even lower. It all depends on how the snow pack responded to today’s temperatures. But, at this time, we are projecting the release will be 450 cfs.
From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):
Several of you have noticed and given me a call: the release from Green Mountain Dam/Power Plant dropped [June 1] by about 300 cfs. This is because one of our hydro-electric generating units tripped off-line. We are currently releasing about 900 cfs to the Lower Blue. At this time, we estimate that the 900 cfs release rate will continue through the weekend and into the top of next week. Once the unit is back on-line, releases will likely resume the 1200 cfs release rate, depending on where we are in run-off, if the snow is melting by then.
Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a look at this morning’s flooding picture from the CWCB. Here’s the link. Here’s the link to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s online applications Flood DSS. Here’s the link to the USGS’ Water Watch website where you can get a graphical view of all their gages across the state. Here’s the link to the Colorado Division of Water Resources Surface Water page where you can track your favorite gages.
I think we can finally say that runoff is starting on the Front Range. Clear Creek, just now, was running at 667 cfs at the Golden gage while the median value for this date is 646 cfs. The Cache la Poudre at Fort Collins is a different story altogether. The median value for this day is 452 cfs but, just now, the river was running at 1,910 cfs.
Here’s a report from around the western U.S. from the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through for the great photo of Grand Coulee (Columbia River) outlet works running full throttle. From the article:
States across the West are bracing for major flooding in the coming weeks once a record mountain snowpack starts melting and sending water gushing into rivers, streams and low-lying communities. The catalyst will be warmer temperatures forecast for the next week that could set off a rapid thaw. Randy Julander, a supervisor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, says flooding this year could be worse than anyone has ever seen. Julander said in a typical year the weather warms gradually, allowing snow in the mountains to melt slowly and ease into rivers and streams over time. That’s not the case this year after a cool, rainy spring.
“It’s all just sitting there, sitting there, sitting there. Everyone knows it’s going to come down, it’s just when and how quick that we’re all waiting for,” he said. “The bull is basically sitting in the chute and the gates are already open. He’s just not coming out to play yet, but when he does I anticipate he’s really going to be ticked off and bucking hard.”
The [Grand Coulee] dam is releasing so much water that millions of fish have been put in jeopardy. The heavy flows through dam spillways capture dangerous levels of nitrogen from the air, and the gas bubbles give fish the equivalent of the bends. A fish farm near the Grand Coulee Dam says an estimated 100,000 fish are dying every day, and has gone to court to slow down the flows.The massive amounts of water coursing through the dams have also created a surplus of hydroelectric power. It’s such a huge glut that the main provider of electricity in the Northwest ordered a shutdown of wind farms in the region because the grid can’t handle all the extra power.
The Arkansas River remained below average in its flows on Thursday, and no warnings have been issued for boaters in any reaches of the river through the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area…
A state flood task force said there could be potential flood danger in Lake County on the Upper Arkansas River. Areas below 7,500 feet elevation are unlikely to experience flooding unless there is heavy rainfall…
Colorado River flows are predicted to peak at about 50,000 cubic feet per second, about 50 percent higher than last year.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
Colorado’s latest snowpack data, compiled by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, shows the profound impact that a cool and wet May can have on water supplies, in terms of both timing and quantity.
Essentially, if you don’t already have it, it’s too late to get flood insurance, said Maggie Lifland, owner of Arrow Insurance in Frisco. Flood insurance — which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through private insurance companies — is not active for 30 days, unless you’re in the process of buying a property right now, she said…
Steve Gunderson, director of water quality control division for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said he isn’t very worried about toxic flooding in High Country homes since most of the snow melt is coming “from fairly high elevation and through narrow canyons.” More harmful flooding usually occurs in flat areas like Mississippi or Tennessee, he said. But damage is site specific, meaning home-owners with shallow wells could experience more contamination.
From the Associated Press via NorthernColorado5.com:
National Weather Service office Aldis Strautins says the Yampa already has caused some lowland flooding though it hasn’t reached flood stage.Forecasters say flood projections for other rivers don’t include rapid rises that were expected earlier. The runoff could still cause a second peak later in the month, as the snow continues to melt.
More than 200 people crowded into a room at Cache la Poudre Elementary School [Wednesday] to learn about the potential for flooding and how to protect themselves and their property from damage.
With water content in the snowpack in the upper Poudre River drainage nearly triple of average for this time of year, a lot of water is going to come down the river in the coming weeks, said George Varra, the Poudre River commissioner…
Scott Hummer, manager of the Cache la Poudre irrigation companies, told the crowd the water content in snow measured at Joe Wright Reservoir is 50 inches, when normally it’s 17 inches. Irrigation ditches can handle only so much of the runoff, he said. “For the next four weeks, you have to pray for no rain,” Hummer said.
From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):
Meanwhile, the snowpack in the Colorado River Basin and many other drainages around the state stands at more than 200 percent of the annual average for this time of year, prompting state officials to sound a collective cautionary alarm on Thursday. Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and Colorado Division of Wildlife officials are warning anglers, boaters, property owners and anyone else who will listen to exercise extreme caution as the temperatures rise and all that snow starts to melt.
The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center’s latest report shows the Roaring Fork’s instantaneous flow is likely to reach 12,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Glenwood Springs this year. That’s the highest the flow is likely to reach, even if only a short time. That level is higher than the top historic peak of 11,800 cfs but well below the flood level of 16,800 cfs, the agency’s website showed. Last year the river peaked at 8,710 cfs on June 11 at Glenwood Springs.
From the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Mike Gillespie):
Colorado’s latest snowpack data, compiled by the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), shows the profound impact that a cool and wet May can have on water supplies, in terms of both timing and quantity. While the state’s mountain snowpack typically reaches its seasonal maximum in mid-April, this year’s snowpack finally reached its peak in late May across northern Colorado, about three weeks later than normal. Not only has the cool weather delayed any significant melting across the higher elevations, but the continued wet weather pattern has contributed to additional snowpack accumulations across the high country. This year’s June 1 snowpack readings show record high snowpack levels for this date across most of the northern and central mountains, according to Allen Green, State Conservationist with the NRCS.
The forecasted runoff throughout the Yampa, White, Colorado, North and South Platte river basins this year is well above average, and in some cases will be two to three times higher than the average for the April through July forecast period. Meanwhile, across southern Colorado, snow melt is well underway after reaching below average seasonal totals. Runoff forecasts in the Rio Grande, San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins are generally below average, with the lowest anticipated runoff occurring along those streams flowing from the Sange de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado.
Additional snow accumulations in late April and into May have considerably improved the water supply outlook across most of the state. Runoff volumes in the Gunnison basin and the Arkansas headwaters have increased this month as well, and are now above average.
At this late stage in the melt season, temperatures will play an important role in how rapidly snowmelt will occur. “There remains a tremendous amount of snow across northern Colorado. A gradual and even meltout would help minimize impacts”, said Green. Water managers will be monitoring temperatures at automated SNOTEL sites, including the daily high and low temperatures as the melt progresses through June. Periodic breaks in June temperatures might help keep melt rates in check. On the positive side, this year’s water supplies will be the best in more than a decade allowing for full reservoirs and abundant water supplies for irrigation well into the summer growing season.