Eagle River Fire district offers safety tips for runoff and high water
Temperatures are finally on the rise and this year’s snowpack has begun to melt, prompting officials in Eagle County to monitor rising water levels throughout the county.
There is still plenty of snow in the high country, and sustained warmer weather may result in higher than average water levels and a longer high-water period than Eagle County normally experiences. With pockets of localized flooding starting to occur, Eagle River Fire Protection District is urging residents and visitors to exercise caution in and around waterways.
During spring runoff, creeks and streams can be particularly dangerous as flows are often higher and faster than they are during the summer months and the water temperature is just above freezing. When taking part in outdoor activities on or near the water, be especially cautious of elevated flows in rivers causing fast currents. Playing along the shore of fast-moving water is especially dangerous for children and pets, as they can easily slip on wet, muddy banks and be swept away by fast-flowing, icy water.
The district recommends following these safety rules around high water:
• Turn Around, Don’t Drown: Avoid flooded areas or those with rapid water flow. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream; it takes only six inches of fast flowing water to sweep you off your feet.
• Never drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads: Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by floodwaters. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Water only two feet deep can float away most automobiles.
• Report blocked culverts and/or water over roadways to local authorities. Expect increased debris in waterways due to low water levels the past few years and the potential for high country avalanche debris traveling downstream.
• Get to higher ground: If flooding occurs, get to higher ground immediately. Stay away from flood-prone areas, including dips, low spots, valleys, ditches, washes, etc.
• Don’t allow children or pets to play near high water, storm drains, culverts or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water, and even adults can easily be sucked under and drown in the strong currents near culverts.
• Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when threatening conditions exist.
• Be especially cautious at night, when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
• Stay informed: Monitor NOAA Weather Radio or local media for weather related information.
• Flash floods can occur without warning. Flash flooding refers to a dangerous sudden rise in water in a canyon or along a creek or wash, or over normally dry land.
• Flash floods result from heavy rainfall, sudden breaks in river ice jams, and dam or levee failures.
• Flash floods can occur within a few minutes or hours, and can move at surprisingly high speeds with little warning.
• Flash floods can be very destructive because of the force of the moving water and debris in flood waters like trees and boulders which can destroy roadways, bridges and buildings.
To learn more about the impacts of high water and what you can do to prepare for the spring runoff, refer to the attached Eagle County Flood Preparedness Information brochure, or download it from the Eagle County website.
Gore Creek since 2013 has been listed on the state’s list of “impaired waterways.” Several years of work are paying off, but getting off the list has become more difficult.