VAIL - Public safety officials in Vail are now encouraging property owners to sandbag flood-prone areas in advance of the peak runoff which has been delayed due to cooler temperatures. Spring runoff typically peaks between mid-May and mid-June, when streams reach their highest flow and height.
Currently Vail Mountain is at 182 percent of average snow water equivalent (SWE), a measure of water content in the existing snowpack. That compares to 101 percent at this time a year ago. Last year's peak runoff occurred on June 6.
Once the cooler temperatures break, the possibility of flooding will increase depending on how fast the warm up occurs, according to Tom Kassmel, the town's floodplain administrator. "If we have a significant flooding event like we had last season, our priority will be to protect bridges, roads and other infrastructure," he said. "Given those priorities, we won't have the resources to sandbag private properties if flooding occurs."
The town has established three distribution points for free sand material and empty bags for residents and merchants who wish to safeguard their property from the possibility of high water. Sand and bags are available at the parking lot near the I-70 interchange in East Vail, at the Charter Bus Lot adjacent to the LionsHead parking structure and at the North Trail parking lot in West Vail. Residents should bring a shovel and be prepared to fill their own bags while supplies last. Some bags have already been filled at the distribution points and are available for immediate loading on a first-come, first-served basis. Contractors are asked to make their own arrangements for sandbags for commercial construction projects.
Town crews are on heightened alert and have already begun pulling debris from the tributaries. Citizens who observe large amounts of debris in the creeks near bridges or significant running water in unusual places are encouraged to call 911. Beginning next week crews will begin sandbagging low-lying areas, such as the Covered Bridge and along Mill Creek at the top of Bridge Street in Vail Village, plus areas along Beaver Dam Road and Rockledge Road. Private property owners who sandbag are asked to make arrangements to remove the sandbags once flood season ends.
For daily updates on stream flow data, visit the U.S. Geological Survey website, at www.usgs.gov. Gore Creek and other Eagle County river data are available by scrolling down to 14010003 Eagle.
Area streams most prone to flooding in Vail include: Black Gore Creek near The Heather and Gore Creek at the intersection of Bridge Road and Lupine Drive in East Vail; Mill Creek near Mill Creek Circle in Vail Village; and Red Sandstone Creek near the Brooktree Condominiums and Buffehr Creek from Circle Drive to the North Frontage Road in West Vail.
An assessment of flood damage from last June has identified 58 locations that were compromised in Vail. Improvements to damaged areas will cost an estimated $1.5 million to $3 million, according to Kassmel. The town has spent $270,000 to repair the most critical of the damaged areas, with $96,000 reimbursed by insurance. Additional funding will be required to address the next most critical repair areas identified in the assessment.
The Eagle County Office of Emergency Management is participating in weekly conference calls with the National Weather Service and Colorado Basin River Forecast Center to help forecast river levels and flooding potential. Information on flood preparedness efforts and sandbag availability throughout the county can be found at www.eaglecounty.us.