Steamboat Springs Routt County Office of Emergency Management Director Bob Struble called the recent mild weather a “blessing” that has kept flooding concerns in the Yampa Valley at bay despite significant high water last week.
The Yampa and Elk rivers receded Sunday afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, the Yampa was down to 4.46 feet as of 5:15 p.m. after peaking at just more than 7 feet last week. The Elk near Milner was down to 7.17 feet at 5:30 p.m. after exceeding flood stage of 7.5 feet much of last week.
But with higher forecast temperatures this week, the rivers are expected to rise again. Struble said he thinks water levels will continue to be erratic as the temperature changes.
“I think we’ll see this for the rest of the high-water season,” he said, adding that the rivers and streams will calm down after cool weather and rise again after warm weather. “I hope we won’t see 8.14 on the Elk again.”
Struble was referring to the peak flow at the confluence of the Elk and Yampa rivers Tuesday morning.
Tom Renwick, a meteorologist with the Weather Service’s office in Grand Junction, said daytime high temperatures should be in the mid-70s this week with overnight lows in the mid- to high 30s.
“Now that things are slackening off a bit, people might say, ‘Thank God it’s over,’ but with all that snow with precipitation in the mountains, that might change fairly quickly,” he said.
And it could happen this week.
Because of the higher temperatures, Renwick said the Elk is forecast to reach 8.5 feet Friday morning, which is moderate flooding stage and a foot below major flooding stage. He said the Yampa is expected to reach 6.7 feet.
The Tower measuring site at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass was reporting 141 inches of snow containing 68.8 inches of water Sunday.
Struble said during a “normal” snow year, peak runoff would end by next week, but that’s not the case this summer. He said with the first of the bald spots starting to become visible on Storm Peak, peak runoff is on its way. He reminded residents to remain vigilant near rivers and streams.
But for now, Struble said Sunday was a good day to help mitigate the water issues.
“The Yampa really dropped. The Elk, last I looked, was just flirting with action” stage, he said. “The weather is a blessing.”
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com
Yampa River hydrograph for June 12, 2011
Elk River hydrograph for June 12, 2011