Flood worries ease with receding waters | SummitDaily.com

Flood worries ease with receding waters

SUMMIT COUNTY – Riverside homeowners are relaxing a bit now that flood waters from spring runoff are receding.

“It looks like things are going to get easier,” Water Commissioner Scott Hummer said. “The flows are definitely down. If you look at the graph, you can see the line is falling.”

All of Summit County’s creeks and rivers are still flowing at higher-than-average rates, but they likely have peaked for the season.

Hummer, who monitors high flows in Summit County’s streams in the middle of the night, said the Snake River is still running the strongest. At 6:45 Monday morning, it was running at 639 cubic feet per second (cfs); by the same time Tuesday, streamflows had dropped to 503 cfs.

Streamflow in the next week will depend on air temperature and rain. Last week, as temperatures soared an average of 10 degrees higher than average both day and night, snow sheeted off the mountaintops. Regular afternoon rainshowers added to the snowmelt and streamflows.

“Streamflows are still above the averages, so if we have a rain event with warmer temperatures, it could put a flush of water in the streams,” Hummer said. “We could be vulnerable for a flash flood event while streams are flowing above historic averages and means. But if it cools off and we get precipitation, there won’t be too much to worry about. I think the danger’s past.”

Although the spring meltdown this year pales in comparison to the floods that took out bridges and flooded homes in 1995, some areas were threatened by the high water.

Most notable is a sinkhole that formed in the westbound lanes of Interstate 70 near Vail Sunday afternoon. But empty lots at the Antler’s subdivision in Keystone were under a foot of standing water, as were many of the low-lying parts of the bike path and some holes at local golf courses. Keystone Resort officials went so far as to remove part of a service road to allow the high water to pass, Hummer said.

“This hasn’t been anything out of the ordinary,” he said of the high water. “It’s just that it’s been a long time since we’ve seen real high-water events.”

Straight Creek recorded its third-highest water level 8:15 p.m. May 28 when flows there reached 228 cfs. The peak flow in the Upper Blue River was 697 cfs at 4 a.m. May 31; peak flow in the Tenmile was 1,490 cfs at 10:45 p.m. May 29, and the highest flow reported in the Snake River – 711 cfs – occurred at 10:30 p.m. May 30 and again at 7 p.m. the next day.

French Creek peaked twice at 117 cfs May 31 and was still running at 82 cfs Tuesday.

High water in the Upper Blue has Dredge Restaurant owner Carol Rockne breathing easier these days, too. Her 200-ton floating restaurant spent 13 days aground on a sandbar or rock at the southeast corner of the Skelly Pond in Breckenridge as water levels in the Blue River went down each day in drought conditions. The town and Rockne ultimately came to an agreement to release extra water from the Goose Pasture Tarn upstream to raise the water level and free the boat.

This week, crews reattached water and sewer pipes to the two bridges that hold the boat in place, and Rockne hopes to reopen the restaurant next week. This summer, she plans to build a support system under the dredge so if water levels get that low again, the boat will have something to rest upon – and Rockne can keep the restaurant open.

The danger of floods, Hummer admitted, is among the more exciting aspects of his job. Now that the danger has passed, he’ll be replacing and installing water-measuring devices on ditches in the Lower Blue Valley, conducting inspections and addressing citizen concerns about wells and the county’s well-augmentation plans.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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