Historic flows forecast for the Roaring Fork River | PostIndependent.com

Historic flows forecast for the Roaring Fork River

Photo courtesy of Nick SohoMembers of the Basalt Red Sox baseball team recently helped the River Oaks subdivision in Basalt prepare for possible flooding by filling 350 sandbags.

The possibility of top historic flows on the Roaring Fork River has got some residents in Basalt taking precautions against flooding.

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center’s latest report shows the Roaring Fork’s instantaneous flow is likely to reach 12,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Glenwood Springs this year. That’s the highest the flow is likely to reach, even if only for a short time.

That level is higher than the top historic peak of 11,800 cfs but well below the flood level of 16,800 cfs, the agency’s website showed. Last year the river peaked at 8,710 cfs on June 11at Glenwood Springs.

The Roaring Fork River typically reaches peak flow between June 3 and 18, according to the forecast center. This year it’s likely to be toward the end of that range or even later, according to Kevin Werner, a hydrologist with the center.

Most of the Roaring Fork basin’s snowpack is at high elevations. “We haven’t seen a lot of melt happening there yet,” Werner said.

The river forecast center envisions a long, sustained period of high flow for many river basins in Colorado this year because snowpacks are so massive. In many cases, the high, sustained flow could continue until around July 4, Werner said.

However, he cautioned it is difficult to predict runoff levels and the date of peaks because the “sequencing” of weather in June is such an important factor. If temperatures stay warm for an extended time, the runoff comes quicker. Cool periods slow the melting.

It has been difficult to forecast weather beyond five days this spring, so the outlook for June is a bit uncertain, Werner said. The current forecast calls for warm temperatures in Colorado’s mountains through the weekend, then cooling at the beginning of next week.

The Colorado River Basin Forecast Center’s website shows the flow expected on the Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs, but not at upstream points. That makes it tougher to foresee how the runoff will affect places like Basalt and Aspen.

Low-lying areas of the midvalley below the confluence of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers are typically susceptible to minor flooding. Pitkin County deposited sand in the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park and the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park for use by residents. The county also provided sand further upstream for residents of the Lazy Glen Mobile Home Park and in Redstone.

The River Oaks neighborhood off Willits Lane took the initiative on its own to prepare. The homeowners association dumped sand at two spots along the subdivision’s single street. Homeowners teamed last weekend to bag sand, with the assistance of the Basalt Red Sox. The son of one of the subdivision’s residents is on the team. Nine boys between ages 9 and 12 helped with the effort, said homeowner Nick Soho, whose son helped. The crew filled 350 sandbags in about one hour.

The River Oaks homeowners are going to work together this Sunday to move the sandbags from the cache to the eight or so yards where they are needed, Soho said.

Basalt Mayor and River Oaks resident Leroy Duroux has pictures of the water levels from 1995, so residents can gauge what might occur this year. Duroux said water also flooded the area in 1983, before River Oaks was developed. It crossed Willits Lane into what is now a business park. Some dikes were built along the river to control flooding when the area was developed.

In 1995, sandbags were required in a few low spots in River Oaks, Duroux said. He anticipates the same level of work will be required this year.

“We just didn’t want to be caught at the 11th hour and not have any protection at all,” he said.

The subdivision was ready with sandbags in 2008 but didn’t need them.

Soho said River Oaks residents take the possibility of flooding in stride.

“No one seems too worried over there,” he said. “When you live by the river, you deal with it.”

Pitkin County’s flood preparation focuses on keeping residents informed. It has compiled information on its website for residents. That can be found at http://www.aspenpitkin. com, then click on the Be Flood Smart link.


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