First signs of flooding reach New Castle
NEW CASTLE, Colorado – Ralph Hubbell has lived on Main Elk Creek in New Castle for 11 years and has never experienced a problem with flooding.But this year, with the flood danger around the state stemming from record-setting snow and rain and now warm temperatures, he is worried about the spring runoff and the potential for flooding onto his property.”Personally, I think in the next five or six days, we’re going to see water like we’ve never seen before,” Hubbell said. “It’s been fine every year until this year, but I think it’s going to be monstrous water this year.”So Hubbell hired nine players from the Rifle Bears high school football team to put sandbags on the river bank to help offset any potential flooding. The kids worked for more than two hours filling 50, 200-pound sandbags and placing them along the river bank.”They were really, really good workers,” Hubbell said. “They were really good kids and they did a great job.”The flooding even caused about 15 head of cattle to come up from the pastures to get away from the high water.And Hubbell isn’t the only person worried about potential flooding. The high river runoff is also a concern throughout Garfield County and across the state.
With the warmer temperatures expected this weekend and into next week, heavy runoff may occur soon.”We’ve had a cool spring, which kept a lot of the snowpack in the higher elevations,” said Aldis Strautins, service hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “Then we’ve had warm days, which has melted off the snow in a lot of the mid-level areas, but we still have quite a bit of snow in the higher elevations.”Strautins said temperatures are expected to warm up this weekend, but then cool off again by the end of next week.”In Garfield County, things are OK right now,” he said. “But the rivers are running pretty high and fast and people need to be careful around the rivers.”Spring runoff in this area typically peaks in late May or early June, but this year the peak may be longer, Strautins said.Both the Colorado River and the Roaring Fork River are being monitored, but the biggest concern right now is the Colorado River.”We’re watching both rivers and we realize there is more water waiting to come down,” Strautins said. “We’re still going to see some rises this weekend and probably into next week.”Areas currently being watched include the Colorado River, Roaring Fork River, Elk Creek in New Castle and Rifle Creek.”Our main concern with Rifle Creek is if there is a rain storm and they could get some flooding,” Strautins said. “There could be some minor flooding and that might be when we see a real problem.”The city of Rifle announced the closure of Rifle Mountain Park on Friday afternoon, due to high water and potential road erosion. The closure is expected to last through this weekend and will be re-evaluated as the high water recedes.Reports showed that as of Friday, the Colorado River was flowing at 25,000 CFS (cubic feet per second), which is higher at this time of year then in 2010, according to Chris Bornholdt, emergency manager for Garfield County.”It’s supposed to peak by June 9 and next week,” Bornholdt said. “But it depends on the weather and how hot it gets. People who are in affected areas might want to do some preparation. If [the water] was high last year, it will probably be higher this year.”Although there are no major concerns right now in Garfield County, they are offering free sandbags to residents to help mitigate any potential flooding problems.
Garfield County residents can receive up to 20 full sandbags or 50 empty bags for free from the county Road and Bridge Department between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday at 0298 County Road 333, off Airport Road.”We’re providing the bags for citizens to protect whatever they’re trying to protect, whether you live in a flood plain or if your house is in danger and you need to protect the infrastructure,” said Garfield County Public Works Director Betsy Suerth. “The bags will be provided until the water goes down.”For more information about obtaining free sandbags from Garfield County, visit http://www.garfield-county.com or contact Road & Bridge at (970) 625-8601. For more information on Rifle Mountain Park, call the Rifle Recreation Office at (970) 665-6570.
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