Yampa River finally falling after what’s likely one of its latest peak flows on record
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After a month of higher flows, the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs is finally falling.
The river rose above 2,000 cubic feet per second at the U.S. Geological Survey’s stream gauge at the Fifth Street Bridge for the first time in 2019 on June 3. It didn’t fall below that again until the morning of Thursday, July 4, when it fell to 1,980 cfs by 8:30 a.m.
Over the weekend, the river kept up that fall, with about 1,500 cfs flowing by the Fifth Street gauge by Sunday morning.
The National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service forecast that flow would continue, with the river falling to about 1,100 cfs by Tuesday evening, and about 800 cfs by Saturday, July 13.
If this holds true, tubing season could be around the corner. Commercial outfitters typically begin renting tubes when the river falls below 700 cfs. Until then, the city recommends avoiding tubing the Yampa.
The river reached its likely peak of 4,180 cfs on Sunday, June 21, the same weekend that Steamboat received June snowfall on the Summer Solstice and a steady rainfall brought minor flooding. This is the highest peak flow at Fifth Street since 2014, when the river peaked at 4,850 cfs.
It would also be one of the latest peaks on the Yampa in the U.S. Geological Survey’s records, which date back to 1904. Only twice in the last 115 years has the river peaked on or after June 22, and only eight times has it peaked on or after June 15. In 1983, the river peaked at 5,260 cfs on June 25. In 1917, the river peaked on June 22 at 5,860 cfs.
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According to USGS data, the median date that peak flow occurs is May 30.
After a rainy Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service forecast another day of partly sunny skies Monday with a 40% chance of precipitation and a high of 77 degrees. Isolated showers will turn to scattered showers and thunderstorms after 9 a.m.
“Currently, we are seeing increased moisture in the southwest flow ahead of a cold storm near Vancouver,” local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth wrote in his weekly blog on snowalarm.com. “There will be a chance of afternoon and evening showers today and again Monday before the Vancouver storm travels across Montana on Tuesday and drags a weak cool front through our area. The air will cool and dry as we see breezy westerly winds, keeping high temperatures on Tuesday comfortably below our average of 81 (degrees).”
A ridge of high pressure following these storms will build on Wednesday, bringing the warmest temperatures of the summer so far, Weissbluth wrote.
Sun is expected to return for the rest of the work week, though the National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook that states isolated showers and thunderstorms are possible over the higher mountains Tuesday through Saturday.
Forecasters call for sunshine in Steamboat and a high near 78 with light wind Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday will heat up, with a high near 85 Wednesday and near 87 Thursday and sunny skies.
Friday, meteorologists are calling for mostly sunny skies with a high near 85.
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