Flash flood watch issued for Summit County

Cars and trucks drive through rain on Interstate 70 near the Frisco/Breckenridge exit May 17. Heavy rains are expected Friday, July 23, and Saturday, July 24, and a flash flood watch has been issued for Friday.
Photo by Taylor Sienkiewicz /

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Summit County and surrounding areas Friday, July 23, as heavy rains are expected in the afternoon and into the evening. And while there’s no official watch yet, there may be a similar alert on Saturday, July 24, with heavy rains again in the forecast.

The flash flood watch Friday is in effect until 9 p.m. National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kalina said that while all of Summit County is within the flood watch zone, the main concerns are the burn areas in nearby counties, including Eagle, Grand and Routt. He said most places in Summit County will see rain and that 2 to 3 inches of rain is possible in some areas. Most of the rain will fall in the afternoon hours.

“There could be another watch (on Saturday), but we’re not sure,” Kalina said. “It looks like there could be more heavy rain (Saturday), similar to (Friday) — maybe a little bit less moisture, but there still could be some heavy rain.”

Summit County Emergency Management Director Brian Bovaird explained that a flash flood watch means conditions could develop that may contribute to flash flooding, while a warning is more serious and means flash flood conditions are expected.

Bovaird’s main point for public safety during watches and warnings was that people should pay attention to any alerts that come out.

Public safety alerts sent in the area come through people’s cellphones. Residents can also check for updates on hazardous weather conditions. He noted that if there are weather events where people need to take protective action, such as seeking higher ground or evacuating an area, the county will send out specific directions. Residents can sign up for Summit County alerts at

“With some of these periods of heavy rain, obviously any of our streams and rivers and creeks can become very dangerous, so we want people to stay away from that,” Bovaird said. “Driving in heavy rains, in general, it’s better if people can wait until the storm lets up.”

Bovaird noted that flash flooding can occur in areas where it’s not raining, as there can be strong storms upstream that can cause a cascading effect.

“It is important for everyone to recognize and remember that just because it’s not pouring rain and thundering right at your location, it doesn’t mean there can’t be flash floods because of upstream conditions,” Bovaird said.

As for flood-prone areas in Summit County, Bovaird said there aren’t many. The only place he said consistently floods is an area below the Dillon Dam, where if the Blue River hits a certain flow rate, properties in the area experience yard flooding, but properties have not historically been damaged. He noted that any area along Summit County’s rivers and streams has a higher risk of flooding.

Bovaird said the biggest flood threat faced in Summit County is localized flooding on people’s properties due to clogged storm drains. He said that while the county and town road and bridge crews started working in the spring to make sure culverts are clear, there have been reports in the past few days of homes that have flooded because drains were clogged and then backed up during rain.

“One thing that people can do to certainly reduce the risk of having any type of water damage is just make sure that some of the bases around their home are taken care of: drains cleaned out, proper grading next to their house, making sure there’s no standing water right up against their foundation, things like that,” Bovaird said.

Bovaird advised that residents consider purchasing flood insurance even if they don’t live in a flood-prone area.

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