Rivers to peak this weekend

Flood warning in effect for the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs

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— The Elk and Yampa rivers are expected to peak this weekend before high-water season floats away, Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale said.

A National Weather Service flood warning is in effect for the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs, with the river expected to approach flood stage tonight and continue to remain high through early next week. Flood stage begins at 7 feet in the Steamboat Springs area.

The Yampa River measured at 5.38 feet at 1:15 p.m. Friday in Steamboat Springs and was churning at 2,780 cubic feet per second, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

High water has closed portions of the Yampa River Core Trail for more than a week, with more closures possible as the river continues to rise. The trail remains closed at the 13th Street underpass, the stretch from Trafalgar Drive to Fetcher Pond, the railroad underpass upstream of Fetcher Pond and the U.S. Highway 40 underpass at Walton Creek.

"If it comes up really big, we might have the Howelsen Hill tunnel go underwater like we did a few years ago," said Craig Robinson, open space supervisor for the city of Steamboat Springs.

In addition to carefully watching the river, Vale's eyes also are on Walton Creek, which tends to back up as it approaches the swollen Yampa, he said.

Another flood warning is in effect for the Elk River near its confluence with the Yampa east of Milner, where residents already have been dealing with high water intermittently during the past several weeks. The Elk River measured at 6.58 feet at 11:15 a.m. Friday, just below its 7-foot flood stage, and was flowing at 4,360 cfs.

The Elk and the Yampa rivers are expected to peak at or a little above their banks, causing minor flooding at most, Vale said.

"All we can do is watch - we've told people to be vigilant," he said.

Across Routt County, high water fueled by snowmelt has yet to enter any homes or cause any significant property damage this spring. Today and Sunday are expected to be sunny with high temperatures in the mid-70s, according to the National Weather Service.

Hopefully, after this weekend's peak flows, Routt County will be finished with high-water events for the year, Vale said.

"Once we get to the 9,000-foot level of snowmelt, we won't have big rushing phases again," Vale said.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

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