Big runoff surge expected
SUMMIT COUNTY – With water levels in streams expected to rise to their highest level in 10 years, officials are preparing for possible localized flooding and dangerously swift stream flows as peak runoff approaches.”We’ve already had a number of tragic accidents around Colorado this year,” said Summit County emergency manager Joel Cochran, referring to drowning deaths in other parts of the state. “We don’t want people to think that, just because we don’t have a 200 percent snowpack, there’s not a problem,” Cochran said. “This isn’t on peoples’ radar. Our normal snowpack creates significant high and swift water,” he added, predicting above-normal stream flows for the next few weeks.Cochran urged locals and visitors alike to be extra-careful this year to avoid being swept away by the icy currents.”There’s so much kinetic energy in just a few inches of swift water,” he said, explaining how easy it is to get swept away by the turbulent flows. The Upper Blue, from Hoosier Pass to Dillon Reservoir, may see the brunt of it, Cochran said, explaining that some of the water normally captured for diversion to the Front Range will course down the west side of the Continental Divide instead. Big flows are expected in the Town of Blue River, through Breckenridge and on down to the Blue River inlet.High water could also reach north of the reservoir, along the Lower Blue, where flows are expected to climb as high as 1,800 cubic feet per second (cfs), levels that haven’t been reached since the mid-1990s, according to Silverthorne town manager Kevin Batchelder. Parts of the subdivisions north of the town are in the floodplain of the Blue River. Based on the number of new homeowners in Summit County, Cochran said it’s worth repeating the oft-heard safety message about keeping kids and pets away from fast-flowing streams.Only people with proper training and gear – wetsuits and flotation devices – should venture into the rapids, Cochran said. “The rule of thumb is throw, reach and go,” Cochran said, explaining that throwing a line or some sort of flotation device is the first step in an attempted rescue, followed by reaching for the victim with some sort of long pole or branch. Recreational boaters also need to be aware of changing river levels below reservoirs, where day-to-day operations can have significant impacts on stream flows. Frisco is not expecting any significant high water issues this year, according to spokesperson Linda Lichtendahl. Town officials recently reviewed snowpack data and found that the snowpack on Hoosier Pass, the key watershed, is at about 19 inches, as compared to 23 inches last year.”I think we’ll be surprised if we see flows go higher than 1,300 cfs,” Lichtendahl said, adding that high-water concerns start to come into play at about 1,700 cfs. County officials will hold a meeting this week to discuss the high water coming in early June, the peak of the run-off season.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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