Basalt dodges floods despite full reservoir

Authorities voiced relief after the Basalt area escaped serious flooding Thursday despite the fact an upstream reservoir had reached capacity.

Although Ruedi Reservoir filled, it failed to do more than splash a bit over the spillway, rather than consistently spill as the Bureau of Reclamation had feared might occur. Officials had worried that spilling might create significant flooding downstream on the Fryingpan River, which pours into the Roaring Fork River at Basalt.

Instead, only minor flooding occurred along the river and in one town park.

“Yes, the rivers are really cooking, they’re really moving and they’re full of water, but they seem to be handling it very well,” said Pat Bingham, a Pitkin County spokeswoman.

Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Kara Lamb said that while the threat of spilling isn’t over, inflows into the reservoir fell off sharply during the day. However, they tend to rise again following a day of snowmelt, and future inflows will depend on how much snow already has melted, and whether there are more warm temperatures or a lot of rain, she said.

Bryon Lawrence, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Grand Junction, said even if it rains much, it probably would be offset by the cooling trend that is in the forecast.

The high temperatures over the past week caused snowmelt equivalent to two or three inches a day of rain in some places, he said.

Basalt’s situation was improved Thursday by the fact the Roaring Fork River had begun dropping. Lawrence believes it has passed its peak flow, reducing the chance of it backing up into the Frying Pan at their confluence and causing flooding.

Two mobile home parks below the confluence are considered particularly vulnerable to high water, and Red Cross volunteers had contacted their residents earlier this week to talk about preparing for and responding to possible flooding. A flood preparedness hotline has been activated at 970-429-1800.

The Roaring Fork Valley Co-Op in Carbondale said it sold out of bags designed to be filled with sand, and it ordered more, but Lowe’s in Glenwood Springs said it had plenty in stock.

Lawrence said while flows in headwater streams are dropping, it takes a while for that to be reflected downstream. Although he believes the Colorado River at Cameo reached its annual peak Tuesday night, at about 12.22 feet, it was expected to still surpass 12 feet Thursday night. Flood stage there is 12.5 feet.


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