Eric Brown
ebrown@greeleytribune.com

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April 30, 2014
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Cool temperatures this week bring relief to those in Weld with flood concerns

A well above-average snowpack in the mountains, combined with rivers and streams that are still littered with debris and compromised banks, has caused concern for potential flooding in northeast Colorado during the spring run-off period.

That was certainly the case last week when temperatures rose in the mountains.

However, cooler temperatures since then have slowed flows.

Estes Park saw a high of 68 degrees on April 22, according to the National Weather Service, and two days later, flows in the Thompson River above Lake Estes reached about 170 cubic feet per second, well above the historic average of about 65 cfs for April 24, data from the Colorado Division of Water Resources showed.

But temperatures in Estes Park — and elsewhere in northern Colorado — fell later in the week, seeing highs of 37 degrees on Saturday, and stayed low in the following days.

By Tuesday, flows at the same spot on the Thompson River had fallen to 116 cfs, closer in line with the April 29 historic average of about 80 cfs.

“There’s no doubt these cooler temperatures have been a big help,” said Dave Nettles, the Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 1 engineer, based in Greeley.

Nettles and other water experts in the region say the Big Thompson River before it hits Lake Estes is a good gauge to follow during the spring run-off period to track snowmelt. Placed high in the mountains, there aren’t yet any cities, irrigation ditches or other users diverting water out of the river at that point, so flows there are very reflective of how much and how fast snow is melting.

Nettles noted that, regardless of daytime weather, if temperatures up in the mountains can return to below freezing at night for a while longer, the snowmelt this spring will come down in a more manageable manner.

If temperatures increase in the near future again and stay there, serious flooding is possible in some areas, many have warned.

Last September, record amounts of rain in the foothills led to flooding and destruction throughout northeast Colorado, including Weld County, where damages added up to about $230 million.

Due to that widespread damage, rivers and streams in the foothills are still littered with debris and have banks that are compromised.

Some experts have said that even with snowmelt coming down at a manageable level, there will likely be minor flooding in some areas.

“It’s a delicate balancing act,” Nettles said. “You need enough coming down from the mountains to get farmers going with planting, but you certainly don’t want too much coming down at once ... certainly not this year.”


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My Windsor Now Updated Apr 30, 2014 11:26AM Published May 2, 2014 06:22AM Copyright 2014 My Windsor Now. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.