Yampa River spills its banks in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa River spills its banks in Steamboat

River's highest peak in seven years fueled by warm temperatures, rapid snowmelt

Zach Fridell

The Howelsen Hill tunnel where the Yampa River Core Trail crosses underneath the railroad track was full of water Monday, when the Yampa River in downtown Steamboat spilled its banks.

— The Yampa River crested Sunday at 6.5 feet, the highest level in seven years and matching the average bankfull level of the river.

The river has slightly dropped this morning to just over 6 feet across a several-mile average, but water levels are expected to rise again tonight, to 6.2 feet.

Bryon Lawrence, hydrologist with the National Weather Service's Grand Junction office, said the river peaked last year at 5.71 feet, and at 6.34 in 2008. The last time the river surpassed this year's crest was when it hit 7.44 feet in 2003, nearing the flood stage of 7.5 feet.

Lawrence said the "bankfull" designation at 6.5 feet is an average of the several miles of river near the Weather Service's gauge at the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Steamboat Springs. He said there are some reports of the river spilling over the banks and onto the Yampa River Core Trail. The city closed the Core Trail at the 13th Street underpass, the railroad underpass upstream of Fetcher Pond and the U.S. Highway 40 underpass at Walton Creek Road late last month. On Monday, the city closed the Howelsen Hill tunnel leading from the Ninth Street pedestrian bridge to Howelsen Hill because of flooding.

Creeks around Steamboat are running fast and furious, as warm temperatures are spurring rapid snowmelt in higher elevations.

The Weather Service also has issued a flood advisory for the Elk River near Routt County 42 west of Steamboat. The river this morning is running at 7.6 feet, and Sunday night it reached 7.75 feet, both well above the bankfull level of 6.5 feet and higher than the flood stage of 7 feet.

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Lawrence said the river is expected to crest Tuesday morning at about 8 feet. He said that so far, the Elk has spilled across some land but has not threatened any properties.

—To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com