Scott CondonGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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May 14, 2008
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Flooding could be a problem in the valley

ASPEN, Colorado Flooding could start next week in the Roaring Fork River basin, but the biggest problem isn't expected until temperatures soar in June, a meteorologist told a small crowd at a flood preparedness meeting in Basalt last night.Aldis Strautins of the National Weather Service said temperatures will heat up starting this weekend, creating the potential for the Crystal River to flood low lands.Then it will cool back down for most of the rest of May, unfortunately saving the bounty of snow until June. Long-range forecasts call for warm, dry months in June and July, Strautins said."Things could be interesting to say the least," he said.Experts say the best runoff scenario would be short periods of warm weather interrupted by cool spells - and no more snow storms. That way the snow melts gradually rather than all at once. This spring isn't shaping up like experts would like."We're getting some extra snow and we're not getting the melting that we'd usually have," said Strautins, who works out of Grand Junction and forecasts weather for western Colorado and eastern Utah. The snowpack in the upper Colorado River basin has soared 29 percent in the last two weeks.The snowpack east of Aspen at the 10,600-foot elevation is at 95 percent above average for this time of year, according to measurements by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.Strautins said streamflow projections indicate the "most likely" peak flow on the Crystal River at Redstone will hit 2,500 cubic feet per second this year, only 50 cfs below flood stage.The most likely peak flow on the Roaring Fork River near Aspen will be 1,500 cfs, only 80 cfs below flood stage. The peak at Glenwood Springs is supposed to be a more comfortable margin below flood stage. Unfortunately, he said, no forecast point exists in the Basalt area, the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers.About 40 people attended a town meeting in Basalt last night hosted by the Pitkin County Emergency Management team to talk about high water and preparedness. Although turnout was low, team member and Basalt fire chief Scott Thompson said residents in the upper and middle Roaring Fork Valley are concerned about flooding potential and have educated themselves on how to prepare.At least one subdivision, River Oaks off of Willits Lane, has already started placing sandbags. Neighbors gathered Sunday, filled bags and piled them in the yards of some of homes most susceptible to flooding.David Fiore, managing partner of Western Peak LLC, owner of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park in the heart of Basalt, said he ordered 1,000 sandbags for use by the 51 families that rent there. He is determining if public entities will supply sand or if he will provide it for his tenants.Rising ground water has traditionally posed the biggest problem at the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park and the adjacent Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. However, two studies commissioned by the town of Basalt show the trailer parks are susceptible to potentially catastrophic flooding.Fiore said his tenants would never truly be safe until they are relocated."We will be in serious trouble if (the river) comes over the banks," said Deborah Farrell, a resident of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park since 1986. She said her property is on fairly high ground in the park. She is more concerned about her friend, Laurie Meiners, who lives closer to the river.Meiners, who has lived there since 1980, said she won't place sandbags around her trailer, but she will remove panels on the skirt so water can flow under it. "I'm very worried," she said.About 75 residents of the two trailer parks, many of them Latinos, attended a similar meeting about flood preparedness in mid-March. Significantly fewer turned out last night.Bartolo Mendoza, a 21-year resident of the Pan and Fork, said he isn't too concerned about the river flooding his home. Trailers haven't been threatened by rushing river water in past floods since he's lived there, he said. The park faces more of a threat of getting water logged by ground water. Mendoza also told officials at the meeting that an irrigation ditch running along the park is filled with sediment and that water flows into the park. Members of the Emergency Management team said they would investigate who is responsible for keeping the ditch clear.The team's overwhelming message to residents has been they are responsible for preparing for floods. Preparation tips an be found online at http://aspenpitkinemergency.com.Law enforcement agencies will monitor river levels, then issue warnings and order evacuations if necessary.


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The Post Independent Updated May 15, 2008 01:44AM Published May 14, 2008 02:00AM Copyright 2008 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.