Peak spring runoff expected within days
SUMMIT COUNTY – A surge of snowmelt could roll down High Country creeks and streams as early as this weekend, bringing the potential for some localized flooding, as well as the high water eagerly awaited by kayakers and rafters.”Weather-wise, the stage is set, the plate is full and Mother Nature is going to put more on our plates,” said forecaster John Henz, who has been working closely with state flood protection officials to pinpoint the timing of anticipated high water events.Henz said temperatures could soar into the 80s in Breckenridge late this week and into the weekend. For a few days at least, there won’t be any freezing at night, and that will really unleash the runoff, Henz said.”It’s sizzle time in the High Country,” he said, anticipating that the sustained warm spell could bring peak runoff for the season. The official state forecast is still anticipating flooding in parts of the Eagle and Blue river drainages. There is no expectation of widespread catastrophic flooding, but people living close to streams should be looking for those peak flows, Henz said.Detailed snowpack maps show that several tributaries in the Blue, Eagle, White and Yampa drainages were treated very kindly by the snow gods, according to Henz. And with a hot-air mass dominating the weather the next several days, all that white stuff will turn to water.For Scott Hummer, state water commissioner for the Blue River Basin, the warning signs are also there. “Things still aren’t busting loose,” he said, referring to the coolish temps that have prevented a gradual melt in early May. An intense and prolonged spell of hot weather could send much of the runoff down from the mountains all at once.”I think it’s prudent that people ought to be aware that runoff is starting,” Hummer said. “When locals say there’s still a lot of snow up there, that gets my attention,” he said.Figures from some of the automated Snotel sites don’t tell the whole snowpack story, Hummer continued. For example, the 65 percent snowpack reading at the Grizzly Peak site doesn’t reflect the true state of the snowpack around the Snake River Basin, he said.”There’s still an awful lot of snowpack above the reservoir,” he said. Fremont Pass snowpack was at 110 percent of normal as of Monday morning, and a hand-measured site at Shrine Pass stood at 135 percent.Information on potential flooding is online at cwcb.state.co.us/Flood/.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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