The chilly waters of Soda Creek were flowing quickly into the Yampa River on Monday morning as spring-like temperatures began cutting into this year's record snowfall.

Photo by John F. Russell

The chilly waters of Soda Creek were flowing quickly into the Yampa River on Monday morning as spring-like temperatures began cutting into this year's record snowfall.

Flood danger rising

Officials stress high water preparation, planning


High water preparedness

What can citizens do to prepare for an emergency?

In preparation:

- Prepare an evacuation plan from your home to a safe area

- Purchase flood insurance, if desired

- Make a list of personal property to help with insurance claims

- Choose a relative or close friend out of the area as a contact person for family members

- Prepare an emergency kit, including a flashlight with batteries, nonperishable food, bottled water and a first aid kit

- Determine who will be responsible for important papers, clothing, food, family pets, etc.

- Once you formulate your plan, rehearse it

During a high water emergency:

- Never attempt to drive through high water two feet of water can carry away most cars

- Organize your homeowners association, neighbors and friends to assist with filling and placing sandbags

- Cooperate with police, public works and emergency personnel

- Volunteer your time and energy to assist in efforts to protect city/town facilities and private property

Sandbagging: Where to purchase sandbags in Routt County

- Elk River Farm and Feed

2680 Copper Ridge Circle,

Steamboat Springs


- Yampa Valley Feeds

198 E. Lincoln Ave., Hayden


- City of Steamboat Springs Public Works

If you feel your property needs sandbags, call 879-1807. The Public Works Department will evaluate your request and deliver sandbags accordingly.

- The towns of Hayden and Oak Creek are evaluating their public works departments' policies and will announce their sandbag policies for 2008 at a later date. The town of Yampa and the Routt County Road and Bridge Department do not provide sandbag services to the public.

- In trying to determine how much sand and how many sandbags you might need, consider that constructing a levee one foot high and 20 feet long takes seven cubic yards of sand to fill the required 100 sandbags. Two people can fill and place 100 sandbags in approximately one hour.

— Routt County officials are preparing for high water and flooding conditions in the coming weeks as the area faces disconcerting weather patterns, high snowpack and heightened runoff.

"In the last 12 days, we went from the bottom of the list in Colorado to No. 2," said Chuck Vale, Routt County's emergency management director.

City and county government officials, public works employees, law enforcement and emergency service providers gathered in Steamboat Springs on Thursday morning to plan their response to expected high water conditions this spring. They were joined by railroad officials, the Yampa Valley Electric Association and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The Little Snake River, in the northernmost part of Routt County, is at 207 percent of its average water content, Vale said. The Elk River has become a significant concern, as well, at 153 percent of average - a level Vale said was "very abnormal."

In 1997, flooding from the Elk River forced a late-night evacuation of people and livestock from Mad Creek to Saddle Mountain Ranch.

Closer to Steamboat, the west side of Rabbit Ears Pass is at 129 percent of average water content, and the measuring station in Lynx Pass is at 138 percent of average.

Historically, Routt County has had eight significant high water events: in 1934, 1952, 1965, 1974, 1976, 1984, 1997 and 2006. This year is likely to be added to that list, Vale said.

"I'm not trying to say 'it's coming,' but I think there are areas where we know we're likely to have trouble," Vale said.

Up a creek

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 Plaza.

Oak Creek is the biggest flood risk in South Routt. In 1984, the creek spilled over its banks, washing away parts of Decker Park and some nearby homes.

Other areas of concern include Cottonwood Creek in Clark and Dry Creek in Hayden. Dry Creek is under close monitoring during a warming trend that is expected to continue through Sunday, which could push its flow up out of its banks as early as Saturday night, Vale said.

"A cool April is a troubling May - history proves that. The current weather that you're seeing proves that," Vale said. "The rest of April, starting Monday afternoon, is going to go right back to cool with increased snow."

While the snow may not stick in town, it still will provide a noticeable increase to the already heightened snowpack on the upper watersheds of the Elk and Yampa rivers and their tributaries, Vale said.

May temperatures are expected to be slightly above average, during the time period when runoff usually is the highest. Spring thunderstorms that pelt warm rain on the snowpack only worsen the situation, Vale said.

Runoff already is flowing into the Stagecoach Reservoir at staggering levels, Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District Manager John Fetcher said.

"I'm afraid that in May, Stagecoach is going to spill," Fetcher said.

The water level in the reservoir was pulled down 14 feet Monday in anticipation of increased runoff, but as of Thursday morning, inflow levels were up as much as 140 percent, Fetcher said.

"Our outflow in the turbines is as high was we can make it," Fetcher said. "How long that buffer is going to last, I don't know."

Help yourself

If high water does strike a neighborhood, county and local governments and their emergency service providers may be able to assist private property owners, but preparedness is in everyone's hands, Vale said. The government's primary responsibilities are to protect life and manage threats to public infrastructure, and in a true high-water emergency, six inches of water in a private residence will not be at the top of its agenda, Vale said.

"With our public resources, we're going to protect public infrastructure," Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper said. "We're not itching to get public equipment out to protect private property."

The county is preparing a high water preparedness guide that will be distributed in the coming weeks with suggestions and resources for homeowners and business.

"Routt County is preparing to help the citizens help themselves," Vale said.


sickofitall 9 years ago

Hey, do not live in the floodplain. Darwin lives!


dogd 9 years ago

How bout Butcherknife Creek? Anybody remember the kayak races in the street in '74?


NatePickens 9 years ago

Steamboat tv18 provides daily water flow conditions. You may also get them online at

Cheers, Nate Pickens Producer Steamboat tv18


jack legrice 9 years ago

dogd, remember it well. Those along the river and creeks best get ready now. There are alot of new people here who think it won't happen. Start baggin!!!


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