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Temperature and river are way up

Cliff Thompson

EAGLE COUNTY ” River watchers, who are trying to figure out how high the water, all have unofficial gauges.

For Barry Smith, Eagle County’s emergency management coordinator, it’s the height of the river compared to the railroad trestle at Wolcott.

For longtime Avon resident Frank Doll, it’s a couple of wooden stakes in his lawn that slopes to the river. Still others, like Greg Kelchner, who runs Timberline Tours, it’s how much snow there is on Vail’s famed Riva Ridge run compared how much bare ground.

For others, it’s when the bike paths in East Vail are covered in water ” which they are this week.

Most river watchers agree on one thing: While unseasonably hot weather has caused the river to swell dramatically, it hasn’t peaked yet.

“We haven’t had a normal runoff like this for a couple of years,” Smith said. “It depends on how quick the snowpack comes off.”

The flow

River gauges maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey validate the unofficial gauges. The Eagle River at Avon Monday was flowing at 2,290 cubic feet per-second ” that’s about quadruple the flow of a week ago and the highest flow since the gauge was placed there five years ago. But the last five years have been drier than average.

A better mesaure of the river’s height is the Gypsum gauge below town where Monday the river was flowing 3,610 cubic feet per-second, about 75 percent of the maximum 4,810. That gauge has been in place for 58 years.

At the Gore Creek gauge, the creek was flowing 1,030 cubic feet per-second on Monday. That’ s a new record for the date by 20 cubic feet per-second. The gauge has been in place nine years.

The weather

After last Tuesday’s cold front and snow showers, the temperatures for the last five days have been more July-like than May-like.

Temperatures have been 10 or more degrees hotter than average, said Joe Ramey, of the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

The temperature Saturday in Grand Junction was a record 92 ” well above the 78- or 79-degree average, he said.

“We’re under a big dome of high pressure that has virtually no cloud cover,” he said. “That allows us to get very hot during the day.”

In Avon, Doll, who has been wathcing the weather since 1968, said that while it’s been hot, he doesn’t believe any temperature records have been set. The high he measured was 88 Saturday and the lows at night have been 45 or 46 degrees ” that’s warm enough to keep the snow melting at night, too.

His stake in the yard gauge indicates the river is about a foot beneath the highest he’s seen there since 1968.

A weak low pressure should sweep across the area Saturday, bringing with it slightly cooler temperatures and a chance for some thundershowers, Ramey said. Those slightly cooler temperatures should slow the rate at which the snowpack melts, and help to prolong runoff.

The snowpack in Eagle County’s mountains is about 90 percent of average this year, according to statistics tracked by Eagle River Water and Sanitation.

Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.

Vail Colorado


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