Runoff/snowpack news: June 1 snowpack numbers are at record levels

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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.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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.

From the Summit Daily News (Kathryn Corazzelli):

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

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.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

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.

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

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.

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