Massive spring storm dumps almost 4 inches of precipitation in Greeley area
May 18, 2017
Weld County Public works crews spend Thursday working county roads. As of 6 p.m., the county roads are closed:
» Weld County Road 49/ Colo. 392-70.
» Weld 66 from Weld 23-31.
» Weld 35.5 from Weld 44-46.
» Weld 41 from Colo. 392 to Weld 70.
» Weld 29 from O Street to Colo. 392.
» The state track meet scheduled today at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood has been canceled; state baseball has been pushed back until Monday at the earliest.
» The Fallen Officers Memorial ceremony scheduled for tonight at Bittersweet Park in Greeley also has been canceled due to the rain. According to a news release from the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, organizers plan to host another event. Details will be released when it’s available.
Greeley's annual spring drenching on Thursday was an impressive one. It turned area parks into lakes, drenched new gardens and crops and swelled the Poudre River 2 feet throughout the day. It's not over yet, folks.
Forecasters expect the area to get as much as 4 more inches of accumulation through this afternoon, and area rivers are expected to flood past their banks before a weekend warm-up.
The massive storm blanketed the rest of Colorado with several inches of snow with expectations of at least 4 feet of snow in the high country by today.
Greeley's higher temperatures kept much of the snow at bay Thursday, though it did come in small waves. So far this month, 6.5 inches of rain has fallen in the Greeley area — 3.67 inches from this storm alone.
A normal May would see a healthy 2.39 inches, said Jim Kalina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
"I've never seen it rain so hard for so long," said Rachel Dixon of Greeley, while she shopped at a local store Thursday. "It usually rains for 20 minutes."
All that rain started to present a flooding problem in and around Greeley on Thursday, as saturated fields could no longer hold, spilling onto nearby roads. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for small streams and rivers. The South Platte River near Kersey is expected to reach minor flood stage of 10 feet tonight.
"We're expecting 10 feet tomorrow, but we don't usually close roads until 12 feet," Roy Rudisill, director of the Office of Emergency Management for Weld County, said Thursday.
The Poudre River on Greeley's north end grew by almost 2 feet to 6.45 feet by 4:30 p.m. Flood stage is at 8 feet. Mountain snowmelt has yet to come into play; that is typically a problem in June.
Weld County had six crews roaming the county through Thursday night to clean up washed out roads. Evans officials were watching some detention ponds off of 42nd Street that were in danger of spilling over into nearby residences, Rudisill said.
"It's not like it will break way and dump on them," he said. "It will be just like water running onto their properties."
By 5 p.m. Greeley had shut down 95th Avenue for standing water that had spilled over from an irrigation ditch, said Joel Hemesath, Greeley public works director. He said 6th Avenue by JBS meatpacking plant also was seeing some standing water. He said residents already had picked up 500 sandbags to be cautious.
The area could see another 2-3 inches of accumulation by today, but overnight temperatures are expected to turn that moisture into snow.
Heavy, wet snow is common with spring storms, and it can overwhelm trees and prematurely prune limbs and branches, and freeze new plantings. Hemesath said city crews would be on alert for such problems today throughout the city.
Ken Olsen, co-owner of Eaton Grove Nursery in Eaton, said newly planted vegetables and flowers are especially vulnerable. He said new plantings should be covered.
"You should cover them with a cloth blanket or better yet, turn pots upside down over the plants, that way they won't get mashed down by any snow," Olsen said.
New trees, too, will be harmed by pooling water. The roots, Olsen said, need oxygen. When the rain ends, he said, it's best to cultivate the soil around the roots to help them dry out, and to keep sprinkler systems off for several days to allow the soil to dry out. Snow weighing down branches should be brushed off beneath the branches.
"Plants have a good ability to recover from deep spring snows and heavy rains," Olsen said. "They just need a few days of sunshine to help that."
The good news is warmer, drier weather is expected over the weekend, giving a slight chance for plants to recover.
Rain is supposed to taper off this afternoon. The area will have partly cloudy skies Saturday with a high of 52 degrees and a slight chance of rain Sunday.
— Tribune reporter Jason Keller contributed to this report.