Steamboat Springs Forecasters are calling for the high water on the Yampa and Elk rivers to continue for another three to four weeks, creating the opportunity for multiple streamflow peaks.
Jim Pringle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said that prediction was stated during a weekly conference call this week with forecasters and emergency managers.
The Yampa is expected to remain steady through the week, but the Elk River was expected to possibly break another record this morning. The U.S. Geological Survey revised its preliminary numbers to show the Elk actually broke the record at 5 a.m. Tuesday with water flowing at 8,250 cubic feet per second, or cfs, and a gauge height of 8.14 feet at the Routt County Road 42 bridge. The forecast Wednesday evening estimated the Elk would reach a depth of 8.2 feet this morning.
Pringle said the forecast takes into consideration factors such as how high the temperatures are during the day and whether they dip below freezing at night.
The Yampa’s high flow so far this season was 4,820 cfs, set at 8:45 p.m. Tuesday. The record for the Yampa, according the USGS, is 6,820 cfs.
Large amounts of melting snow at upper elevations continue to feed area rivers and creeks, and no end is expected in the near future. Upon examination of one piece of local folklore, that holds true.
Some longtime Routt County residents look to the top of Storm Peak for the two brown spots that appear as the snow melts. Peak runoff is signaled when the spots merge.
“I think that’s true most years, but it might be a little bit different with the extraordinary amount of snow we see up in the Park Range,” said Doug Allen, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s vice president of mountain operations.
The brown spots are not even beginning to appear. At the ski area, 120 inches of snow was measured Wednesday at Sunshine Peak, and there was still 46 inches at mid-mountain.
Allen pointed out that snowmaking at the mountain would not affect the two brown spots on Storm Peak.
“We did not make any snow up there this year or do we ever really ever make snow in the proximity of those dots,” Allen said.
The Tower measuring site located at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass was reporting 150 inches of snow containing 74.4 inches of water Wednesday.
That’s down from the May 29 statewide record high of 80.1 inches of snow water equivalent.
The site at 9,400 feet on Rabbit Ears Pass was reporting 47 inches of snow containing 27.9 inches of water.
The Dry Lake campground site at 8,400 feet was reporting 20 inches of snow containing 11.1 inches of water.
— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com
Yampa River hydrograph for June 8, 2011
Elk River hydrograph for June 8, 2011