Steamboat under flash flood watch until midnight Tuesday |

Steamboat under flash flood watch until midnight Tuesday

Steamboat Springs resident Andy Morris walks along U.S. Highway 40 on Tuesday afternoon during a steady downpour. Morris was hoping to catch the bus on his way to downtown Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell

— Along with virtually all of the Colorado Rockies and the Western Slope, the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County were placed under a flash flood watch through the afternoon and evening hours Tuesday by the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

However, meteorologist Jim Daniels said at 2 p.m. Tuesday that the way the storm was shaping up, it did not appear that Routt County was in the path of the heaviest flooding potential.

“We’re more concerned about east central and southeast Utah,” Daniels said. “The storm is riding up the Utah/Colorado border, and you folks in the Yampa Valley are kind of on the edge of it.”

Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said the most immediate flash flooding concern here would likely arise if heavy rainfall amounts fell in specific areas where the runoff might overwhelm a roadside ditch or a culvert under a road.

Daniels agreed.

“With the air mass being very wet and this being really, tropical moisture, even showers could overwhelm some ditches,” he said.

A forecast discussion posted at the National Weather Service website indicates the heavy rainfall in preceding days already has saturated soils in some areas of the Grand Junction forecast area, and the concern is that any additional rainfall would run off into creeks or previously dry ditches.

The flash flood watch, which is not as severe as a warning, remains in place until midnight Tuesday.

Most of the weather stations in the Steamboat area reported receiving a little more than a half-inch of rain in the 24 hours preceding 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, boosting some two-day totals as high as 0.99 inches in The Sanctuary subdivision at the mouth of Fish Creek Canyon. The official Steamboat weather station on the city’s north side recorded a two-day total of 0.66 inches and an overnight total of 0.63 inches.

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service rated the chance of rain and possibly heavy rain at 80 percent for the afternoon and evening, though it did not predict specific amounts. Weather Underground was predicting that 0.2 inches would fall during the day and another 0.3 inches would be added to the total Tuesday night.

The concern in southeastern Utah is related to the vast expanses of ground covered by sandstone, where rain runs off into narrow canyons. The National Weather Service reported that by midday, managers at Canyonlands and Arches national parks had closed many roads because of the threat of flooding.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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