Flood preparations under way as rivers rise in Basalt
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT – Crews were put on standby to place sandbags along the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers in Basalt Tuesday, as waters in the already swollen rivers continued to rise.
“We have crews on hand in Basalt ready to go,” said Hilary Fletcher, Pitkin County manager.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced it would be making additional releases into the lower Fryingpan from Ruedi Reservoir, east of Basalt, on Tuesday, after bumping up flows by 100 cubic feet per second on Monday.
Flows in the river were expected to hit 650 cfs Tuesday, but the bureau re-evaluated its need to move water and said it would hold the release from the reservoir to 600 cfs. With the contribution of flows out of Rocky Fork, a tributary to the Fryingpan below the dam, the bureau was estimating flows of about 640 cfs coming down the Fryingpan.
Flows coming into the reservoir were topping 1,060 cfs, the bureau reported, prompting the need to increase its release out of the lake.
According to Fletcher, the county has been told flows below the dam could increase to 800 cfs in the near future.
“It’s going to be interesting,” she said.
In Basalt, crews are prepared to sandbag in the vicinity of the confluence of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork and to protect the two mobile home parks adjacent to the Roaring Fork, she said.
The Roaring Fork, which rose swiftly in recent days as a heat wave chewed through the remaining high-country snowpack, will likely see yet another spike, Fletcher told county commissioners Tuesday in Aspen.
Twin Lakes Reservoir on the far side of Independence Pass, southeast of Aspen, is filling rapidly. Diversions from the upper Roaring Fork drainage to that side of the Continental Divide will cease, and water managers expect the Fork to rise by another 600 cfs by Saturday as a result, she said.
The Crystal River, south of Carbondale, is also raging, and crews placed sandbags along its shore early Monday in a section between Redstone and the town’s fire station, she said.
The snowpack was not expected to produce flooding danger this year, according to Fletcher, but an August-like spike in temperatures last weekend has triggered rapid runoff around the state.
Monday was another hot day in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, but clouds moved in Tuesday afternoon. The temperature in Aspen was 69 degrees at 2:45 p.m. – it was closer to 80 degrees on Monday; the high was 84 degrees on Sunday.
“It’s unbelievable right now,” Fletcher said of the valley’s rivers. “If you haven’t taken a drive along the rivers right now, it’s just amazing.”
Elsewhere in Colorado, a flash flood warning was in effect through Tuesday evening in parts of north-central and northeast Colorado, including Boulder and the western Denver suburbs.
In Boulder County, bike paths along Boulder Creek were closed and a bridge in Boulder Canyon partially collapsed. Debris has built up behind the bridge, and authorities say they’re concerned a surge of about 2 feet of water could flow down the canyon if the bridge fails.
Officers have been trying to keep people off the path in case of a surge. A dive team was also on call in case anyone is swept away, city spokeswoman Jody Jacobson said.
Portions of recreation paths also remained closed in Vail, where over 2,000 sandbags have been used to reinforce river banks, bridges and paths.
The high water has prompted some rafting companies to halt guided trips. In Estes Park, a northern Colorado town near Rocky Mountain National Park, some 500 sandbags were handed out Monday to hold back the rising Big Thompson River.
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