Flooding in Moffat County has eased since last week, but local officials say the spring snowmelt is just beginning | CraigDailyPress.com

Flooding in Moffat County has eased since last week, but local officials say the spring snowmelt is just beginning

Eli Pace
Preparations have been put in place along Lincoln Street to try to mitigate flooding along Fortification Creek in Craig on Monday, April 17, 2023. Flooding in Craig and Moffat County has receded since late last week, but local officials say that the snowmelt has only just begun and more flooding issues could arise when temperatures rise again.
Eli Pace/Craig Press

Flooding in Craig and Moffat County has receded after the city and county experienced a number of water-related issues last week, but local officials say that much more runoff is on the horizon.

According to Sgt. Todd Wheeler, Moffat County’s emergency management coordinator, all roads in the county have reopened to at least single lane traffic following the closures that were enacted on Thursday, April 13, and Friday, April 14.

The flooding in Moffat County and Craig was a result of heavy snowfall this winter, making for an above average snowpack across Northwest Colorado, combined with warm temperatures melting the snow.

Hayden experienced major flooding issues on Thursday, and the rising water levels in Moffat County weren’t far behind, as flooding began to affect numerous city and county roads Thursday evening into Friday.

“The Road and Bridge crews have been working diligently trying to get culverts replaced and get (all county roads) back open to two-lane travel, so they are hoping that at least people can access their residences,” Wheeler said.

On Friday, Moffat County commissioners issued a disaster declaration for unincorporated parts of the county, a move that could free up more resources if the flooding worsens.

“With so much snow yet to melt and the prediction from the National Weather Service of warmer temperatures to come starting on Sunday, April 16, the imminent threat of flooding is expected to increase,” the declaration stated. “Although no homes in unincorporated Moffat County are known to be flooded at this time, the risk of homes being flooded or becoming inaccessible because of flood conditions is imminent as snow melts and the level of water in rivers rises. There is also a risk to livestock because of flooding and damage to pastures.”

The water level continues to rise in Fortification Creek on Friday, April 14, as Craig and Moffat County officials were working to try to get ahead of potential flooding issues in the city and county.
Moffat County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo

Still, by the beginning of this week, the situation was looking better.

“The water level I saw (Tuesday) morning had risen about a foot and a half from (Monday), but now it’s kind of sitting at the same level,” Wheeler said Tuesday afternoon, April 18. “We have warm temperatures right now with a lot of wind, and we’re expecting rain this afternoon. I don’t expect it to raise that much more (Tuesday night) and then we’re going to hit this cold front for the next three days, so that will kind of slow things down for us.”

Wheeler said that to his knowledge, there still haven’t been any reports of homes getting flooded in Moffat County. However, he is still very concerned that the snowmelt so far is only a fraction of what exists at higher elevations.

“If we jump back into the 60s with sunny days, then we’re going to see this again,” Wheeler said. “That’s what I was out looking at (Tuesday). We were really only melting the local snow pretty much around the city of Craig within about a 400 or 500 foot elevation rise around the city. We haven’t even begun to touch the higher elevations.”

Wheeler said that the snowmelt from higher elevations is likely where the biggest issues will arise, and unfortunately, there isn’t a great drainage system along the Fortification Creek area in Craig or much crews can do to mitigate any potential flooding there aside from the efforts that have already been taken with sand berms and sandbags lining the area.

“We have only begun to see the beginning of this due to the amount of snow that we still have left in the high country,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”

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