News Flash

Summit County Government

Posted on: July 3, 2019

Elevated River Flows Require Caution and Preparedness

Tenmile Creek passes under the Fourth Avenue bridge in Frisco

Peak runoff in local rivers and streams may pose swift-water hazards and flooding throughout the holiday weekend

Contact: Brian Bovaird, Emergency Management Director: 970-423-8912

SUMMIT COUNTY – Peak runoff in many local rivers and streams is taking place about one month later than usual this year, coinciding with Independence Day festivities. Summit County encourages residents and visitors to be mindful of high water levels, strong currents and localized flooding throughout the community.

As of early July, cumulative precipitation for the year in the Upper Colorado watershed remains about 20 percent higher than average, so Summit County residents, visitors and property owners should be especially vigilant when it comes to swift-water safety and flood preparedness. Denver Water announced on July 2 that it would increase Dillon Dam outflows from 1,420 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 1,800 cfs by July 3. And tributaries to the Blue River downstream of the dam are contributing significant additional volumes of water.

"The magnitude of water flows from tributary streams below Dillon Dam is unusually high right now," Summit County Public Works Director Tom Gosiorowski said. "As a result, residents and property owners should not rely upon Dillon Dam outflow projections as the only source of information by which to gauge their level of risk. When Dillon Dam outflows reached 1,420 cfs earlier this week, several properties experienced flooding that has been more typical of conditions when dam outflows reached 1,700-1,800 cfs. In other words, benchmarks from previous years may not apply this year, so residents and property owners should err heavily on the side of caution and preparedness."

As of July 3, the Blue River was running at 1,810 cubic feet per second (cfs) below Dillon Reservoir and at 2,270 cfs below Green Mountain Reservoir; Tenmile Creek was running at 1,010 cfs below its confluence with North Tenmile Creek; flows in the Blue River below the Swan River exceeded 700 cfs.

Summit County urges people to be cautious of fast currents caused by elevated flows when they're participating in any outdoor activities on or near the water this week. It’s especially dangerous for children and pets playing along the shores of fast-moving water, as they can easily slip on wet, muddy banks and be swept away.

Stream flows are likely to be especially high during extended periods of warm, sunny weather and during prolonged rain events. Flows in some stretches are heavily influenced by the release of water from dams. Summit County’s rivers and streams typically experience peak flows during late May through mid-June.

"This year's delayed runoff means that our rivers are running much colder and faster than we typically see during the July 4 holiday timeframe," Summit County Emergency Manager Brian Bovaird said. "We definitely hope everyone enjoys the celebrations, but these water levels do require our attention to safety and preparedness."

During a flood event, sandbags can be used to help prevent water from accessing an area you are working to protect. Summit County and local towns offer free sand and sandbags to residents and property owners at many locations throughout the community. A comprehensive list of locations and agency contact information can be found in the Summit County Flood Preparedness Guide, available online at www.SummitCountyCO.gov/flood. The guide also contains instructions on properly building a sandbag levee.

Summit County strongly discourages people from any recreational activities in the water without proper training, experience and equipment. The agency recommends the following guidelines to stay safe around high water:

  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground immediately.
  • Stay away from flood-prone areas, including dips, low spots, valleys, ditches, washes, etc.
  • Avoid flooded areas and those with fast-moving water. 
  • Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream. Six inches of moving water is all it takes to sweep a person off his or her feet.
  • Don’t allow children or pets to play near high water, storm drains, culverts or ditches.
  • Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by floodwaters. Never drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. It only takes two feet of water to wash away most automobiles.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when water levels are high or fluctuating.
  • When recreating in or around the water, use the proper size and type of personal floatation device (PFD, or life jacket).
  • Anglers should wear wading belts to prevent water from entering waders during a fall.
  • Be especially cautious at night, when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Monitor NOAA Weather Radio or your local media for vital weather-related information.

Members of the public are encouraged to review the Summit County Swift Water Safety and Flood Preparedness Guide at www.SummitCountyCO.gov/flood. The guide contains information on the history of high water events in Summit County, links to current flow data from U.S.G.S. river gages, instructions on building a sandbag levee, household emergency checklists, safety tips, flood insurance information and more.


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