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Colorado River seeing peak flows

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Sandbags line the bank of the Crystal River as a precaution against rising water levels outside of Carbondale. (Chad Spangler/Post Independent)
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Despite the greatest snowpack in decades, Garfield and Pitkin counties have floated through the runoff season so far without any significant flooding.

No major problems have been reported yet as rivers flow at volumes that are at least double the average rates for this time of year.

The Colorado River just below Glenwood Springs peaked Tuesday around 20,000 cubic feet per second, running about 9.8 feet deep. The river was well above the 9,860 cfs average. The level is above where the river is considered full but below where it’s considered flooding, according to the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center.



“We’ve been watching, waiting for when this water is finally going to come off,” said Jim Pokrandt, communications and education specialist with the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “It warmed up the last week or so. That’s what brought on these peak flows.”

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center predicts that Tuesday’s peak will drop off several thousand cfs with cooler weather until Saturday. Then the river is tentatively predicted to rise again to about the same flows as Tuesday’s peak again next Wednesday. It would then begin to taper off through June 14, the furthest date out included in the forecast.



“We could definitely see another peak that high based on the amount of snowfall that’s still up there,” said Troy Lindquist, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “Based on the climatological history, you could make a claim that either yesterday or this next week we’ll see the peak of the season.”

The Upper Colorado River Basin still had about 126 percent of the average water content in its snowpack Wednesday.

Around Glenwood Springs, the concrete landing at Veltus Park was underwater Wednesday morning. The path through Glenwood Canyon is closed indefinitely from No Name east through most of the canyon due to high water. The River Meadows Mobile Home Park cut down trees and put in sandbags over concerns about flood danger.

Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson said the water was still a few feet from the sandbags there Wednesday morning.

“The latest hydrology reports actually show that we should be in pretty good shape,” he said, as long as there’s not a large amount of rain, unforeseen heat and runoff.

Garfield County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Operations Commander Jim Sears said Wednesday that no significant flooding problems had been reported yet in the county.

“We haven’t had any flood issues,” he said. “It’s going to be high water but we’re not looking at it being up into the flood zone, yet.”

The Crystal River is also running at about twice its normal flows. The U.S. Geological Survey says it was flowing at 3,000 cfs just below Carbondale Tuesday. The average is 1,530 cfs.

“Up the Crystal River into the Redstone area it’s been just fine,” said Carbondale Fire Department Chief Ron Leach. “The river’s handling it just fine and we haven’t had any flood issues at all.”

He said there has been some sandbagging at the BRB Campground south of Carbondale, but flood concerns have so far proven to be a “non-issue.”

“There was a lot of snow this winter and everyone was concerned about the runoff,” he said. “I think everything’s going just fine.”

Ellen Anderson, emergency management coordinator for Pitkin County, said there hasn’t been any flooding reported beyond a couple of minor issues, including a clogged culvert east of Aspen that caused some inconvenience.

The Roaring Fork River near Emma flowed at about 3,600 cfs Tuesday compared to a 1,640 cfs average for the same date.

Sears warned anyone going out on the rivers to be extra careful. He said two boaters fell into the Colorado River Tuesday at the whitewater park in west Glenwood Springs. They apparently capsized because they didn’t know the wave feature was there.

The men floated and swam about 1.5 miles down the river, got out, and walked to the South Canyon exit on Interstate 70. They were OK except for a couple of minor injuries, Sears said.

pfowler@postindependent.com


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