Yampa River hits new peak for season as colder weather looms
May 27, 2013
Steamboat Springs — Last week, it was thought that the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs might already have peaked and most probably assumed snow was in our rearview mirror.
But the Yampa hit 2,830 cubic feet per second Monday under the Fifth Street bridge in downtown Steamboat, and cold air moving into the area this week could mean snow above 9,000 feet.
After reaching 2,610 cfs on May 18, the Yampa River started to tail off, bottoming out at 1,530 cfs Wednesday.
"From the standpoint of getting the snow just right at the end, it's kinda tough to do," Craig Peterson, a hydrometeorologist with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, said about predicting how much snow is still left to melt at the end of a season. "We're always struggling in the last meltup."
A combination of uncertainty about how much snow coverage was left in the mountains and temperatures this past weekend that exceeded expectations helped cause a surge in the Yampa River.
Starting Friday, the Yampa began to pick up and hit the cycle of overnight surges and afternoon dips.
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However, the river still might not hit the average peak of about 3,070 cfs.
"A couple things are working in your favor; a couple things are working against you," Peterson said.
Precipitation in this week's forecast at higher elevations could mean another runup, but cooler, cloudier weather and less snow on the ground could mean we've seen the height of the Yampa for this year.
The mountains around Steamboat should start seeing some snow by Tuesday night, said Ben Moyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, and snow levels might drop to about 9,000 feet or maybe a little lower through Wednesday.
On Thursday, there's a slight chance snow that could even reach as low as about 7,500 feet, Moyer said, but by the weekend, temperatures will be back into the 70s in town.
But this week is pretty much it for the high point of the Yampa, Peterson said.
"If it's not right around that flow level, it's going to be really close to it," he said about Monday mornings reading in the 2,800 range. "It might come up a little bit higher (Tuesday) from the snowmelt."
Peterson said his office was concerned about the river at the start of April, but good late-season precipitation helped flows and pushed the peak back.
All in all, it hasn't been a bad year for the Yampa, Peterson said.
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com
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