Our View: Flood danger is real; be prepared


Editorial Board, January through May 8, 2011

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Traci Day, community representative
  • Dean Vogelaar, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— It’s typical for Routt County to receive late-spring snowfall. It’s also typical for areas of the county to experience flooding issues during peak runoff.

But this spring and summer are shaping up to be anything but typical here in the Upper Yampa Valley, and residents need to be prepared. With mid- and upper-elevation snowpack at record levels and the weather forecast calling for continued precipitation and overnight lows below freezing for the next week, the likelihood of extensive flooding across the county later this spring continues to increase.

We’ve already seen what can result when the snowmelt begins in earnest. A rockslide has closed River Road near the Brooklyn neighborhood in downtown Steamboat since early last week. Roads across the county are being monitored daily for erosion and stability issues. A culvert along 13th Street in Steamboat was unable to handle runoff last week, and that led to the flooding of several businesses.

Local government agencies and officials have been meeting in earnest in recent weeks as the spring runoff scenarios begin to come into view. On Monday, Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble and Road and Bridge Department Director Paul Draper updated the county commissioners on their plans to keep roads passable and on how they’ll provide aid to any rural residents who might be stranded by flooding near their properties.

The takeaway for all Routt County residents is this: Be prepared for the potential impact of flooding on your property and personal safety.

The updated 2011 High Water Preparedness Guide issued jointly by the county’s municipalities is a good place to start. The free guide, available to download in PDF format at Routt County’s website or with this editorial at SteamboatToday.com, includes numerous tips about preparing for an eventual emergency and what action to take should that arise. From how to fill and stack sandbags to keep floodwaters at bay, to putting together a grab-and-go kit for your home should you be forced to leave at a moment’s notice, the High Water Preparedness Guide is comprehensive and easy to read.

Among the tips:

■ Know if you live in a high-water risk area. Call your town or city government if you’re not sure.

■ Buy flood insurance, if appropriate

■ Prepare emergency supply kits for your home, car and office

■ Keep important papers in waterproof containers and have a record of your valuables in a safe place to help with insurance claims

■ Watch for warning signs such as an increase in height and intensity of water flows, mudslides, debris in creeks, color changes in water and leaning trees

■ Teach your children about high water safety

■ Consider arrangements for your pets and livestock

■ Check on elderly or disabled neighbors to ensure they are aware of the situation

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

■ Never try to drive, walk or swim through high water. Two feet of water can carry away most cars.

Don’t underestimate the chance that high runoff and flooding can affect you or your property. Many longtime Steamboat Springs residents recall Old Town flooding in 1974 and the wide-reaching impacts. Although it’s not clear whether the pace of runoff will create similar conditions this year, the potential exists. And that should be enough for heightened awareness from everyone.


Scott Wedel 6 years ago

It should be noted that by far the biggest flooding risk is warm weather followed by heavy thunderstorms. A gully washer amplified by pulling water from remaining snow pack can cause a major flash flood in minutes.

Thus, while the areas prone to seasonal flooding can probably expect it to be a bit worse this year, the scenario for downtown or other severe flooding is from flash floods that may have very little notice.


kathy foos 6 years ago

Geez,I'll have to be very careful out there........Freerider is afraid I might melt! Seriously....I don't think you can currently buy flood insurance for this potential flood situation.You have to purchase it way before the actual flood threat.I know I could be wrong,any insurance people out there?


Scott Ford 6 years ago

Brent and the Pilot Editorial Board - I know all of you guys and you are good folks, however, this is not an editorial it is an "article". I encourage you guys to jump into fray on some local issue with every editorial. It is OK to be opinionated - I think "an opinion" is what we expect.

For example with Ryan Wood's application for a special use permit for his ranch. Locally we talk all the time about fostering a culture of entrepreneurship as a core economic development strategy. Do the County Commissioners understand what this means? Now that would be a good editorial.

Over the past several months too many of the Pilot's editorials have become "softballs" or like the current one an "article" rather than an editorial.


rhys jones 6 years ago

I can contribute in a positive way here, I hope. While only a jailhouse lawyer myself, specializing in criminal matters, I had a brother who was a real lawyer, yet oddly enough, still an idealist, earning him an early trip to Heaven. He did manage to impart a pearl or two within myself, before his departure, first and foremost that I am NOT an attorney.

I did, however, observe the difficulty he had obtaining fire insurance for his cabin in the woods during a particularly fiery summer. He was up there every weekend, spraying down the house and raking up Ponderosa needles. His general household insurance would not cover wildfire, which qualifies as an "Act of God." God saves the insurance companies a lot of money. So I think Kathy is correct, you must have that specific coverage, if you can find and/or afford it.

Personally, I think we should just vote the floods out. Circulate a petition, get the signatures, have a special election, Resolved: No more floods, within the City Limits. Passage of this referendum will preclude the insurance companies from their Act-of-God exclusion, since the voters took God out of the equation. I'll be out in front of City Market with the petition - drop by and say Hi!!


Brian Kotowski 6 years ago

Scott: methinks thou dost protest too much. My impression is that all the "Our View" pieces are editorials.


rhys jones 6 years ago

and thus to be approached light-heartedly. Cheerio!!


Fred Duckels 6 years ago

Scott Ford, I'm beginning to like your comments better all the time.

During any runoff we have the potential for a flood, just a matter of temp and moisture.


rhys jones 6 years ago

(I can see the wagons circling, maybe this'll turn into a real talk yet, if we flog it enough.)

Ain't got much to add to this talk yet, still waiting to see where it goes. Do have a relevant and entertaining story, however. I think it was the spring of '96, we sandbagged, and still you could've gone fishing from my living room couch; wading was required to get there. It all funnels into Dream Island, which is why Jim Cook had to decline buying that fine property. Some things may never change, as long as railroad right-of-way is eminent domain. That water's got to go somewhere, and sometimes Dream Island gets wet.

Legend has it that back in the old days, that was the local cemetary, until a spring flood brought up many of the caskets, some of which were never found, leading to the current name, and occasioning the relocation of the boneyard up the hill a ways.

Sweet dreams, campers!!


John St Pierre 6 years ago

While I understand the talk about flooding... The TV stations in Denver have pick up the story and now make it sound like Downtown is underwater. This going to kill whatever Off season business by scaring people away. We have already had calls from people thinking of cancelling weekend trips because "of all the Flooding">>>>

Chamber Where are you??? we need to kill this in the bud please!!!!!!


freerider 6 years ago


I'd be more than happy to hold your broomstick


kathy foos 6 years ago

The Denver Post had a story today about mountain flood potential.It stated that the insurance was as little as $100.00per year.I paid 1000.00 several years ago. They said 30 day waiting period,and they recommended people get it.The weather is cool enough that it is melting slowly,but surely.It was 1996 that the water got up to the edge of my house that has a creek for a day or so,but I think with all of the irrigation diversions take a lot of the flood stress off .If we had crumbly old dams they would be scary,but after John Fletcher's work in the valley ,it seems Stagecoach should be able to control a flood.That is a very good dam .


Kevin Nerney 6 years ago

YVB always wipe at least four times - my dad was a Marine They taught him and he us " Three for starters three to finish up and three to polish off"


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