Snowpack has peaked and the Yampa River is on the rise as temperatures head into the 60s
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Spring has hit the Yampa River, and as the snow melts, the river rises.
Snowpack peaked around April 3 at about 25.9 inches of snow water equivalent, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, but that peak didn’t really start melting off until last week, only falling to 25 inches around April 18.
For most of the winter, the river flowed at about 70 cubic feet per second, according to the U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge at Fifth Street in downtown Steamboat Springs.
The river rose from about 300 cfs at noon April 15 to 770 cfs at noon Monday, April 22. The National Weather Service forecasts the river will rise to about 2,000 cfs by Saturday morning.
For reference, at about 2,400 cfs, portions of the Yampa River Core Trail flood and, at about 3,600 cfs, portions of the ball fields at Emerald Park flood, according to the Weather Service.
This weekend, cooperative observers reported rainfall accumulations of one- to two-tenths of an inch, with the greatest rainfall in Steamboat, according to Weather Service meteorologist Michael Charnick. He said the valley could expect spotty showers Monday night and Tuesday that could bring an additional one- to two-tenths of an inch in some areas.
“At this point, the showers, at least over the next few days, aren’t going to be heavy enough to really have any impacts on the river. It’s more just a steady gradual rise from the snowmelt,” he said. “Fortunately, it looks like it’s going to be a fairly slow release of water, so we’re not expecting too many issues from that. If way down the road we see some heavier thunderstorms later this spring and into the summer, that could have some problems with water levels, but for now, it looks pretty safe.”
Occasional precipitation has, so far, kept the snowpack from running off too quickly.
The snowpack “was very close to normal. What a wonderful thing that is,” Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District General Manager Kevin McBride said. “We’ll hope we get the median amount of summer rain, too. That’ll be a nice break from what we’ve been dealing with.”
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