Increased rainfall keeps tubes afloat in Steamboat
Above average precipitation for August a factor for faster flowing Yampa River
August 24, 2010
Steamboat Springs — An unusually wet August and continued discharge from Stagecoach Reservoir is keeping tubes from scraping the bottom of the Yampa River this week.
The river was flowing at 190 cubic feet per second Monday morning at the Fifth Street Bridge, according to a monitoring station operated by the U.S. Geological Survey. The historic mean for the river on Aug. 23 is 116 cfs.
"The rain that we have been having and the moisture from the monsoon weather has really kicked in," said Kent Vertrees, a recreational representative on the Yampa-White River Basin Roundtable. "There isn't a fear of a closure of the river to tubers because it's been so full."
Vertrees said that the Yampa doesn't get difficult to tube until it begins to flow at less than 100 cfs.
Steamboat has received 2.03 inches of precipitation so far this month, compared to a historic average of 1.54 inches. Local weather spotter Art Judson attributes the increase in rainfall to monsoonal moisture, slow-moving thunderstorms and chance.
"It's as much chance as anything," he said. "What makes this warm season different is that we have had three separate events where we received more than 1 inch of rain in less than 24 hours. That's unusual for here."
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While the increase in rainfall is one of the factors keeping tubes from scraping the bottom of the river, water being released from Stagecoach Reservoir continues to keep the Yampa flowing faster than usual. The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District is releasing an average of 140 cfs of water into the river from the reservoir because of a construction project that will increase water storage there by nearly 10 percent. Conservancy District General Manager Kevin McBride said the discharge is expected to continue until mid-September.
Lynn Barclay, spokeswoman for the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit, said the biggest effect the increase in moisture will have on the fire danger in Routt County is on smaller fire fuels such as grass and sagebrush.
"The recent rain helps reduce and moderate fire danger," she said. "But these fire fuels absorb and lose moisture quickly."
The fire danger in Routt County remains moderate. Barclay said that while the abundance of rainfall can temporarily decrease fire danger, people still should be aware of their surroundings and understand that the potential for fires still is significant.