Summer kicks off with June snow, flooding and high water in the Yampa Valley
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s snowing. The Elk River is flooding, and the Yampa River is running higher than it has all year.
Happy first day of summer, Routt County.
On top of the snow that is still melting off of the mountains, heavy rain and summer snowfall have area rivers and streams flowing with high water.
In downtown Steamboat Springs, the Yampa River is currently 41 degrees. Without protection from a wetsuit or dry suit, this temperature can be deadly. Exposure to water this cold can cause total loss of breathing control and is immediately life-threatening, according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety.
Routt County weather stations in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network reported receiving between 0.78 and 1.29 inches of precipitation from about 7 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday.
Elk River in minor flood stage
The Elk River is flowing at 7,840 cubic feet per second near Milner, more than three times higher than its June 21 average of 2,040 cfs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
This puts the river at minor flood stage, nearing Routt County Road 42.
Low lying structures near the C.R. 42 bridge over the Elk River are flooded.
At this stage, flooding on C.R 42 and backwater flooding as debris block culverts on U.S. Highway 40 are possible, according to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.
“The Elk River continues to rise this morning and is forecast to start to fall later this afternoon. Additional rain could keep the river high. Warm temperatures yesterday and periods of rainfall overnight have increased runoff. The flows along the Elk River in Routt County will continue above flood stage this morning. Minor flooding is possible along the Elk River,” the Weather Service wrote in a flood warning issued for the Elk River on Friday morning.
The Weather Service urges caution walking near waterways and recommends avoiding flooded areas and unstable riverbanks.
Yampa River flowing high
Amid nearly a week of rainfall and summer snowfall Friday, the Yampa River hit 4,120 cfs at the Fifth Street stream gauge Friday. The Weather Service forecast that the river would fall Friday afternoon.
This is the highest flow seen in the river this year.
If this turns out to be the river’s peak flow this year, it will be the highest peak since the river ran at 4,850 cfs of peak flow in 2014, according to data from the USGS and previous reporting in Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Below Craig, the river is forecast on Saturday to reach flows that will fill its banks, flooding low-lying agriculture and pastures near Craig and triggering a response from flood managers. The river is currently flowing at 8,060 cfs, more than twice its long-term average flow on June 21 of 3,380 cfs.
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