Steamboat businesses flood as storms, snowmelt keep coming
April 21, 2011
April 19, 2011: Routt County flooding begins
April 6, 2011: 1984 downtown Steamboat flood serves as reminder of risk
Steamboat Springs — Snowmelt and rain have taken their toll on at least a couple of business owners, as they watched water soil their mattresses and threaten their marijuana crops this week.
"We lost all of our mattresses" except two, Harris Greene said. "It's probably close to $15,000."
Greene owns Mountain Mattress and Furniture, which stores its mattresses in a mixed-use building at 2005 13th St. On Thursday morning, water once again had flooded the property. The flooding started Monday night and has continued after snowmelt and rain and snow showers this week.
At the same building, the water threatened a marijuana growing operation for Rocky Mountain Remedies. It is estimated that water got as high as 10 inches inside the building because water wasn't draining quickly enough through a culvert close by.
"We thought we had a total loss the other night, and five, six hours of work helped save it," said Kevin Fisher, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies.
With rain in the forecast through Monday, property owners and officials across the county are closely monitoring the rising water levels and saturated soils.
River Road along the Yampa River south of downtown is expected to be closed through at least the weekend as workers continue to monitor the road and remove large boulders from a cliff. The road was closed shortly after rocks were reported on the road Tuesday night.
Public Works engineer Ben Beall said a geotechnical engineer had visited the site and advised the city what rocks to pull down. Beall said the situation would be evaluated again once the rocks are removed.
"Due to the weather expected over the weekend and the snowmelt flowing down the slope, the city will keep the road closed until it is evident that the slope has stabilized and all debris has been cleared from the roadway," a city news release stated.
The city asks that drivers, cyclists and pedestrians respect the road closure along River Road because of the presence of heavy equipment and the potential for instability.
Routt County Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper said workers are continuing to address high water threatening county roads. Draper said the agency is dealing with "low water" flows from rain and low-elevation snowmelt that are inundating the culvert system. The system is designed to handle water flows that occur every 20 years, on average.
Looking at the weather Thursday, Draper called it the calm before the storm.
"We anticipate another busy day," he said.
In the coming weeks, Draper expects that the Road and Bridge Department also will be dealing with the "high water" flows resulting from snowmelt at higher elevations that feed through rivers and underneath bridges.
A stream flow monitoring station on the Yampa River downtown was reporting flows of more than 1,400 cubic feet per second Thursday. That's more than double the 101-year median for the date.
"It's going to be a pretty significant runoff," Draper said.
Business owners Greene and Fisher said they think their flooding problems likely will be resolved by the time the high water becomes an issue. By then, the snow likely will have melted from neighboring hillsides, and they hope the ground will be less saturated.
"Once the hillside is dry, it's done," Fisher said.
Until then, employees of the two businesses are taking turns monitoring pumps and squeegeeing the floors.
Assistant City Street Superintendent Ron Berig said the city helped early on by delivering sand and sandbags.
Berig said he also rented a pump to quickly lower the water enough so the culverts could be inspected. The city is limited in what it can do because the flooding is affecting a private development.
"I pumped it down the first day just to give them a head start," Berig said. "We feel confident that the culverts are clear and running well."
Greene and Fisher said they think the culvert running underneath 13th Street that provides relief to their businesses is too small.
"That's up for debate," Berig said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com