Spring mountain runoff has contributed to an increased flow of water into Summit County rivers and streams throughout the month of June, but local experts expect the flow to taper during the remainder of the season.
“We’ve gone past the peak and the general trend from here on out will be slowly downward until we hit base lines,” said Troy Wineland, District 36 water commissioner.
Local and state officials have been monitoring the flows in all waterways and have been prepared to respond to the possibility of high water conditions in Summit County.
Only minor flooding occurred over the course of the spring runoff season, including a high stream flow that closed Straight Creek Drive east of Canyon Trail last week. Overall spring runoff levels have been close to average, according to local officials.
“I don’t think this runoff season would register on the flooding scale, but you are always going to have localized issues,” Wineland said.
The water levels in the Snake and Blue rivers and in Ten Mile Creek all peaked last week, between June 9 and 11, the commissioner said. Although the overall risk of flooding should continue to decrease throughout the summer, a rain or snow storm could trigger a spike in the level of local streams and rivers, he said.
One of the duties Summit County’s emergency management director, Joel Cochran, is to make sure the county is prepared in the case of a water emergency.
“The public gets lulled a little bit into the safety around flooding because we don’t flood every year,” Cochran said.
But, he said, residents shouldn’t become complacent to the inherent risks of water.
“Six inches of swift water can carry a person off their feet,” he said.
Cochran also warned residents to keep their pets safe and away from fast-flowing water. It isn’t uncommon for rescue crews to reunite stranded pets with their owners, he said.
Water commissioner Wineland also encouraged people to keep tabs on the weather when they’re enjoying the outdoors.
“Folks should stay aware of weather conditions and what the potential for precipitation is whenever they go out in the backcountry,” he said. “There is always a potential for increased flows.”
Wineland said over the last three years Summit County residents have witnessed how variable precipitation can be in Colorado.
“This year we have had what most folks would label as an average year as far as snowpack,” he said. “Last year, was one of the worst on record, and 2011 was one of the highest in terms of snowpack.”