Roaring Fork Valley rivers are high; no flooding expected
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A combination of warm temperatures and dirty snow is hastening the melting of snow in Colorado’s high country, meaning the annual spring runoff peak may arrive earlier than in the past.
But officials are not expecting catastrophic flooding in this region, and area rafters and fly fishermen are hopeful that an early runoff will not be a problem for their businesses.
According to Ted Hinricks, a Colorado River ranger for the U.S. Forest Service stationed in Eagle County, the Colorado River surged on Monday to around 10,000 cubic-feet-per-second at a gauge station at Dotsero, near the eastern end of Glenwood Canyon.
Although he was hesitant to predict what the surge meant for the overall runoff season, Hinricks said that last year’s peak of 13,300 came in June.
“I think we’re probably a scrunch above normal,” he said of this year’s runoff.
He said the “mean” reading of the river, averaged over 10 years, is approximately 6,800 cfs.
The Roaring Fork River reportedly was flowing at around 2,400 cfs as of Monday afternoon at a gauge station near Emma, but by the time it got to Glenwood Springs, it was flowing at 6,700 cfs, according to Tom Trowbridge of Roaring Fork Anglers, who read the river gauge early on Tuesday.
“I expect that we’ll get on the river earlier than we typically get on the river,” Trowbridge said, explaining that his river trips usually start in late June or even later. This year, he said, he expects to be taking people on float trips as early as the first week of June.
In 2008 at this time, according to the Post Independent’s daily chart of river flows, the Colorado was at 12,700 cfs at Dotsero and 17,100 cfs at Glenwood Springs. The Roaring Fork was measuring just over 6,000 at Glenwood Springs.
Hinricks pointed out that the weather will continue to play a role in the runoff flows. A string of cool, cloudy days or precipitation could slow the pace of melting snow, stretching out the runoff season.
Conversely, a string of warm days and nights could speed things up, he said.
Rafters are not making many predictions, said Geoff Olson of Blue Sky Adventures.
“It does look like we’re going to have an early peak ” maybe two or three weeks early,” Olson said, crediting recent warm temperatures coupled with the layers of dust blown in by a dozen wind storms last winter.
The layers of dust, which absorb the sun’s warming rays, have sped up the snowmelt process, bringing rivers close to flood stage in some areas.
He said he already had sent boats out for training trips on the Crystal, Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, as well as a couple of commercial trips.
Officials have said that the Crystal River is nearing the flood stage, but Ellen Anderson, emergency services manager for Pitkin County, said no serious problems are anticipated.
“It looks as though we’re going to get to bankfull, but not much more,” Anderson said on Tuesday.
Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach, whose department is keeping an eye on the Crystal, said there is a supply of sandbags handy in case they are needed but added, “I’m not worried about it. I think it’s going to be a normal runoff year.”
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario’s department also is not expecting a heavy runoff this year, though departmental spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis noted that things could change quickly depending on the weather.
The sheriff’s website (www.garfieldsheriff.com, click on the Emergency Management button) shows that peak runoff is expected this week. The website also contains links to flood preparedness information.
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