As snow melts, Yampa Valley residents should consider flood risk | SteamboatToday.com

As snow melts, Yampa Valley residents should consider flood risk

A flooded property adjacent to the Elk River west of Steamboat Springs in 2011.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As the snow melts and the possibility of spring rains looms, Routt County residents should be prepared for the risk of floods along the Yampa River and its tributaries.

The Yampa River has been seeing an increase in the amount of water flowing as snow has started to melt off. In the past week, the river has run at 300 to 500 cubic feet per second at the U.S. Geological Survey’s gauge at Fifth Street, up from the 100 to 200 cfs it was running at the end of March.

At a glance

Emergency operations manager David “Mo” DeMorat offered the following tips to prepare for a flood.

  • Sign up for emergency alerts by visiting routtcountyalerts.com or calling Routt County Communications at 970-870-5532.
  • Prepare an emergency kit that contains supplies including at least three days worth of food, water and medication.
  • Make a plan if you need to evacuate by considering what belongings can’t be replaced, gathering maps in case one of your exit routes is cut off and establishing a place where you can meet other family members who are out of the house at the time of the evacuation.

Most seasonal flooding in the county occurs between mid-May to mid-June. Routt County Emergency Operations Manager David “Mo” DeMorat said it’s time for homeowners and officials to start making plans.

Routt County is working with municipalities to develop a plan should the area go under water, he said.

“We’re watching it more closely than we have in previous years,” DeMorat said in reference to this year’s above-average snowpack. 

DeMorat explained that though the area’s snowpack is at 111 percent of average, this isn’t the only factor to think of when considering flood risk. The biggest concern is how quickly that snow comes off and whether the area sees spring rains. He added that preliminary forecasts are calling for above-average spring precipitation, too.

“The real determining factor will be what the weather is going to hold this spring, especially if we have a lot of precipitation,” he said. 

DeMorat is working with other agencies to identify at-risk areas. Within this planning, he is also helping develop an “execution matrix,” a plan that will identify what happens based on stream flow rate, temperature and observed water levels.

In Steamboat Springs, Soda and Burgess creeks are flood-prone, City Planner Bob Keenan said, who serves as the city’s floodplain manager. The city has mapped areas that are in the 100- and 500-year flood plains. Each year, there is a one-in-100 chance that a 100-year flood occurs and a one-in-500 chance of a 500-year flood event.

Steamboat area residents can visit steamboatsprings.net/491/know-your-flood-hazard to learn if their home is within one of those floodplains.

Use the slider to view 100- and 500-year flood plains in the Steamboat area.

If you live within the floodplain and are interested in flood insurance, the best time to purchase it is always yesterday. Flood insurance policies frequently don’t cover property until 30 days after it was purchased, DeMorat said.

 “With the flood season typically starting in mid-May for seasonal (floods), we’re already in that 30-day window, so if you live in a known flooding area then flood insurance becomes of primary importance,” he said.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.


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