City offers flood awareness

State, federal agencies here to answer runoff questions

Past Event

Flood awareness meeting

  • Tuesday, March 25, 2008, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs, CO
  • Not available / Free

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— Routt County residents with questions about the coming spring runoff and the potential for flooding can get some preliminary answers tonight during a meeting hosted by the city of Steamboat Springs at the request of state and federal agencies.

The flood awareness meeting is planned for 6 to 8 p.m. at the Citizens' Meeting Room in Centennial Hall. City Planner Bob Keenan said representatives of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Federal Emergency Management Administration's National Flood Insurance Program will give presentations.

The snowpack is above average across Colorado, and the Steamboat Ski Area has recorded a record 450 inches of snow. However, Routt County Director of Emergency Management Chuck Vale said annual snowfall does not necessarily translate into increased moisture content in the existing snowpack. He added that in his experience, the optimum time for gauging the volume of runoff that will course down specific drainages is still about two weeks away.

"We just had our first statewide Flood Task Force meeting (involving more than 35 agencies)," Vale said. "But I usually wait (to draw any conclusions) until the second meeting in mid-April. That's when we have enough data to say, 'You have this much water to go down this basin in this many days,' and we're not there yet," Vale said.

Although Mount Werner has seen a record amount of snow, the water content in the combined Yampa and White river drainages is 106 percent of average, according to the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Close to Steamboat, the Dry Lake measuring site at the base of Buffalo Pass shows 109 percent of average, and the Tower site on top of the pass stands at 93 percent of average. Rabbit Ears Pass is higher, at 117 percent.

Of the measuring sites in Steamboat's backyard, Elk River, at 133 percent, stands out.

Vale said history has taught water managers in the area that the most likely scenario for significant flooding here is extended warm rain on top of standing snowpack.

Vale doesn't see reason for alarm as the calendar prepares to flip from March to April.

"I'm not terribly worried about Routt County," Vale said. "But watch, now that I've said it, we'll get rain on the snowpack. We need to be prepared in Western Colorado to help each other. I think it's more likely that I'll get called to help somewhere south of I-70 this spring."

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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