Surge in S. Platte moves downstream after spilling over banks
FORT MORGAN A surge in the South Platte River was moving downstream through northeastern Colorado on Thursday, a day after spilling over its banks.No additional flooding was immediately reported.River levels rose after a spring storm dumped more than 2 feet of snow in the foothills and up to 5 inches of rain on the Eastern Plains on Tuesday.The National Weather Service said the South Platte was rising Thursday near Weldona, about 60 miles northeast of Denver and 14 miles east of Fort Morgan. The river was expected to crest at Weldona early Friday but remain below bank-full levels, the weather service said.On Wednesday, the South Platte overflowed its banks near Platteville, about 25 miles north of Denver, prompting members of one household to drive through water up to 2 feet deep to get to higher ground.The water reached the bottom of a bridge of Colorado 66, but the road was still open, Weld County sheriffs spokeswoman Margie Martinez said.Television images showed water rippling across pasture land.This weeks storm, which unleashed tornadoes and hail along with the rain and snow, gave a slight boost to the statewide snowpack but did little good in the mountains, the source of much of the water that feeds the region.The statewide snowpack stood at only 76 percent of the 30-year average Wednesday, the same as a year ago. The total rose slightly from 73 percent from Monday.The South Platte and Arkansas river basins in eastern Colorado were at or slightly above 100 percent of average, but basins in western Colorado ranged from 57 percent to 82 percent.Eight major Colorado river systems, fueled partly by snowmelt, provide water to 10 Western states.This definitely has been a Front Range and Eastern Plains storm and not a big mountain storm, said state climatologist Nolan Doesken. So the idea that this is really adding to the snowpack and adding to the water summer supply is really not quite true.The storm does buy the state some time, delaying the need for eastern Coloradans to draw heavily on water in reservoirs, some of which are filled by diversions from rivers in the western part of the state.The outlook was more optimistic earlier in the year after Colorado, grappling with drought for at least six years, was pounded by back-to-back blizzards in the east and big snowfalls in the mountains.But the snowpack levels fell from early February to April. The culprit was drier- and warmer-than-normal weather in March.Early runoff means the water may be gone by the time farmers need it later in the year. It also could bring rivers to their peak before rafters are ready to book their trips. >b>On the Net:Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado snowpack: http://www.co.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network: http://www.cocorahas.org
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