Residents warned to stay away from rivers
It’s going to get hot, and with it, the temptations will increase to cool off in the river.
Unless you’re an experienced rafter, though, don’t plan a float trip down local rivers in the near future, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday.
“Do not get on the river. Period,” spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said. “It’s running ridiculously high. There are people in Colorado who live here just to run the rivers, but that is not the majority of people.”
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction issued a flood warning for the Colorado River in Mesa County and Grand County. Warmer weather in the high country will continue to melt snow, causing rivers to run high and fast for the next several days, the Weather Service said.
River flows at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday showed the Colorado River at Palisade flowing at 20,800 cubic feet per second, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Colorado Riverfront Trail running underneath 32 Road has flooded, Benjamin said.
On Tuesday, Grand Junction officials warned pedestrians and bikers to avoid low-lying flooded areas on the trail. Closed areas include sections east of the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens and areas near the Glacier Ice Arena.
Garfield, Eagle on edge
Garfield County emergency officials are stepping up their warnings to residents to be careful about high-water conditions as spring runoff further swells area rivers.
County Emergency Manager Chris Bornholdt upgraded his concerns about the Roaring Fork River, which now appears as if it will peak higher than in 2010, another big runoff year.
The Garfield County Sheriff’s Department is warning people who approach rivers to be aware of fast currents, floating debris and the potential for quick-rising water levels.
They should use extra caution along riverbanks and not allow children near rivers without a life jacket, the Sheriff’s Department said.
In Glenwood Canyon, the Colorado Department of Transportation already has taken the unusual step of closing the bike path throughout most of the canyon because of high Colorado River levels. In a typical runoff season, the path is closed only in the central part of the canyon, but it currently is off-limits from the No Name Interstate 70 exit near Glenwood Springs, through the canyon’s eastern end.
“We’re already seeing water over the path in places we wouldn’t normally,” CDOT spokeswoman Mindy Crane said.
The federal Colorado Basin River Forecast Center is predicting a good chance of flooding on the Colorado River at Dotsero, just upstream of Glenwood Canyon.
“The nice thing is we don’t have a lot of homes in that area that really are flood-prone,” said Barry Smith, Eagle County’s emergency manager.
Some residents in the area could face detours if CDOT is forced to close a bridge for a secondary road over the river at Dotsero, he said. That closure would occur if water approaches within two feet of the girders of the bridge, built in 1935. Smith estimated it was within about four feet Wednesday.
Emergency officials in both counties are watching the weather forecast with hope. Indications are there will be a continuing mix of warmer and cooler spells that will continue to melt snow more gradually.
Said Smith, “We know that there’s still a lot of snowpack left, so there’s a lot of potential there, but if it keeps with that trend and moderates that runoff, we might get through this without too many problems.”
Garfield sheriff’s officials say longtime locals are reporting an abnormally high amount of snow on south-facing slopes that usually are more melted off by this time of year.
Smith said some Eagle County residents in low-lying areas have been placing sandbags on their properties.
Officials expect the Colorado River to peak next week.
Garfield sheriff spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis asked that anyone who sees flooding threatening properties or roadways to call 911 immediately.