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Counties Prepare for Potential Flooding as Snow Melts

Rocky Mountains
photo by Robin Kanouse
Rocky Mountains

Record snow levels in parts of Colorado have many county emergency officials bracing for potential flooding as temperatures warm across the state. 

Eagle County is among those stepping up preparations, noting that the amount of water contained in the snowpack around the Vail area is higher than average – and a run of warm days is all it will take to cause rapid melting and flooding along the Gore Creek and Eagle rivers. A late spring heat wave last June led to more than a dozen homes and a bike bridge being damaged by flood waters. 

But with a few days of cooler weather this week, things are looking a little less dire.

“Last week we were at about 133 percent of average snow-water equivalent, and as of this morning we’re at about 119 percent.  So we’ve gone down a little bit,” says Barry Smith, Emergency Management Director for Eagle County.  “That’s the best we can hope for is a few warm days, then a few cool days to sort of moderate that runoff, so we don’t have any flooding issues.”

Still, in the interest of being prepared, the county is making free sandbag materials available for residents in Avon, Eagle and Vail.  And Smith says sheriff’s officials and county workers will be keeping an eye on flood-prone areas once river levels start rising.

Elsewhere, crews in Fort Collins and Greeley have been clearing felled trees and debris along the Poudre River that could slow flows and create blockages against bridges. The Poudre River is expected to peak and potentially surpass flood levels in the third week of June, a few weeks later than normal.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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