Quick warm-up means powerful river flows

By: James Hopkins Email
By: James Hopkins Email

The river rescue efforts in Glenwood are a sad reminder of just how dangerous the river can be. After a cool start to spring, the Grand Valley is really starting to heat up, quick and this quick heat is to blame for the fast–flowing water.

A long, relatively dry winter caused snow-pack levels in the North Central mountains to be low, but the prolonged cool spring helped to make up the difference. "We saw some significant snow storms in April which really helped their water supply issues," says Bryan Lawrence, hydrologist with he National Weather Service. Now, temperatures are starting to spike into the 70's and 80's in the higher elevations, which means quicker snow-melt. "We're seeing high flows on the Colorado as a result of that," says Lawrence.

The speed of the river can be just as dangerous as the height. With temperatures forecasted to in the 90's this weekend. Officials are expecting a boat load of people to look to the river for recreation. "With the Colorado river at peak flow on the first good warm weekend of the year, the danger is elevated," says Jim Fogg of the Mesa County's special services unit. The faster than normal current can catch people off guard and get them in trouble in a hurry. "Difficult to get to shore where you want to, or at all," says Fogg.

Sometimes the shore, right along the bank, is not the safest place to be either. "The river banks through here can be very unstable especially during high flow," says Fogg. The high flow undercuts the bank and erodes the stable foundation. Ground that looks sturdy can actually give out right under your feet, dropping you into the river and carrying you away. "The faster the current the stronger the eddies and the undertows," says Lawrence. Sometimes there's more than just the water to worry about. "The one we're seeing is debris in the river that punctures crafts," says Fogg.

The good news is that much of Colorado is looking at a dryer weather pattern, which means the peak crest through town is forecasted to hit this Monday into Tuesday. Then the waters are expected to slowly recede.

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