Water from the Elk RIver runs across Routt County Road 44 on Wednesday morning into a overflowing drainage ditch.

Photo by John F. Russell

Water from the Elk RIver runs across Routt County Road 44 on Wednesday morning into a overflowing drainage ditch.

Authorities warn caution, vigilance around rivers, creeks in Routt County

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Nicole Miller/Staff

Steamboat Springs 100-year floodplain

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National Weather Service

Updated hydrograph for the Elk River near Milner

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National Weather Service

Updated hydrograph for the Yampa River at Fifth Street

— Officials are urging residents to exercise caution around gushing creeks and rivers that are expected to remain high for three weeks or more.

The flows in the Elk and Yampa rivers have dropped considerably since the beginning of the week, but they are forecast to rise again early next week.

Two major incidents already have occurred in Routt County involving the Yampa and Butcherknife Creek.

On Wednesday, a woman who is suspected of being drunk drove her car off Colorado Highway 131 and crashed into the Yampa about 320 feet away just south of Phippsburg. She sustained minor injuries.

On June 4, a 15-month-old boy reportedly wandered away from home and fell into Butcherknife downtown. The creek previously had peaked, but the flows were enough to carry the toddler about 400 feet downstream, where his grandfather found the boy and pulled him out. The boy, Edwin Rodriguez, was in critical condition Friday at The Children’s Hospital in the Denver area.

A dog also reportedly disappeared this week after entering Fish Creek near the Sanctuary neighborhood.

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Lt. Michael Arce urged people to be careful around the water.

“Keep an eye on the little ones,” Arce said.

Children should not be allowed to play around drains, creeks or rivers, Arce said.

“Six inches of moving water can cause a person to fall,” he said.

People also should stay away from the banks of creeks and rivers because water may have eroded pieces of the bank that are not visible.

The Routt County Office of Emergency Management advises people to avoid driving on roads overtaken by water.

More deaths occur because of high water each year than from any other thunderstorm or hurricane-related hazard, according to the agency. Many of these casualties are a result of careless or unsuspecting motorists who try to navigate flooded roads.

“Two feet of water can carry away most cars,” the agency states. “The most dangerous thing you can do is to try walking, swimming or driving through high waters.”

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the Yampa was running at 3,270 cubic feet per second Friday afternoon. 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.

The Elk was running at 5,370 cfs Friday afternoon. The Elk broke its all-time record at 5 a.m. Tuesday with water flowing at 8,250 cubic feet per second.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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