The Yampa River, shown here in south Routt County, along with the Elk River, may experience what Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck  Vale describes as "high water" in the coming months as snow runoff and rain combine to flood the waterways.

Photo by Brian Ray

The Yampa River, shown here in south Routt County, along with the Elk River, may experience what Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale describes as "high water" in the coming months as snow runoff and rain combine to flood the waterways.

Flood preparations under way for South Routt

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— Oak Creek's Public Works Department is assessing its sandbag supply in anticipation of high water in South Routt this spring.

"It's going to be a different spring than we've had the past few years," Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale said. "We won't have what most people consider flooding - there won't be houses floating down the river."

But every three to five years, Routt County experiences what Vale calls "high water" on the Elk and Yampa rivers and the area's many creeks. Such conditions are probable in 2008.

Vale is most concerned about rainfall on the existing snowpack or several days of hot weather, even in Moffat County. While the high-water period typically begins May 20 and lasts until early June, the county can get flooding and high water weeks before that.

It was only April 6 when Hayden's Dry Creek flowed over its banks in 2006.

"A cool April makes a troubling May," Vale said. "The old-timers will tell you that's true."

Flood discussions in South Routt inevitably bring up memories of Oak Creek's 1984 flooding, when the town's creek overflowed and washed away parts of Decker Park and some houses. The park was restored by a team of volunteers after the flood.

That year, the flooding began May 1, Oak Creek Fire Protection District Chief Chuck Wisecup said Thursday.

"I don't know how many of you realize it, but our conditions right now are about what they were in 1984 when we got flooded," Wisecup said.

The Steamboat Ski Area recorded record snow this season - 489 inches when the mountain closed April 6 - and flakes continued to fall in the Yampa Valley last week. The water content in the combined White and Yampa river drainages is 107 percent of average, according to the National Resource Conservation Service. The Elk River is high, at 121 percent of average.

Oak Creek is the biggest flood risk in South Routt, Vale said. Other areas of concern in Routt County include Dry Creek in Hayden and Cottonwood Creek in Clark. In the greater Steamboat Springs area, close attention will be paid to Walton Creek, Soda Creek, Spring Creek and Hot Springs Creek, as well as the Yampa River south of town near the Super 8 Motel, the Dream Island area and the industrial area west of town near Snow Bowl, Vale said.

"We're going to have some high water, but we're going to be OK," Vale said.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203 or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

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