Mountain showers, mostly dry valleys, and rising rivers

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 6:08 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - We are still closely monitoring rivers on the Western Slope. They are rising steadily, and many are already overflowing the banks. Those that aren’t flooding are likely to flood by late this week or this weekend.

Flood Alerts

Flood Advisories are in effect for the Gunnison River from Delta to Grand Junction, for the Colorado River from Grand Junction to beyond the Colorado-Utah state line, for the Dolores River from Utah to McPhee Reservoir, and for Plateau Creek at Cameo in Mesa County.

Tracking The River Levels and Impact

The Colorado River near the CO-UT state line is at 12.22 feet on Wednesday afternoon. It is expected to rise above its 12.5-foot action stage tonight and rise to near 13.55 feet by Sunday morning.

  • 6 feet: Some lowland and meadow flooding is possible near Fruita
  • 10 feet: Water will approach sections of I-70 near Fruita
  • 12 feet: Considerable agricultural flooding is likely between the Redlands and Fruita
  • 14 feet: Flooding is likely in the Redlands

The Gunnison River near Grand Junction - just south of town - is already at its action stage where minor flooding starts to occur. It is forecast to increase to about 12.0 feet on Saturday night.

  • 7 feet: Water inundates sections of the river walk near Redlands Dam
  • 8.6 feet: Water reaches the top of the left bank of the west side of the Hwy 141 Bridge, and water begins to fill the gravel quarry upstream from the bridge.
  • 9 feet: Lowland flooding near the Redlands Dam is likely, including some low-lying agricultural land.
  • 10 feet: Considerable agricultural flooding is likely between Whitewater and Orchard Mesa and water flows into the quarry downstream of the Hwy 141 Bridge
  • 11 feet: Water nears the bottom of the Hwy 141 Bridge and it reaches the base of the bridge near Redlands Dam.
  • 13 feet: Residential flooding begins near Redlands Dam

The Gunnison River at Delta is at 8.99 feet Wednesday afternoon. It is expected to reach its 9.4-foot action stage on Thursday afternoon. It will crest near 10.12 feet on Saturday.

  • 8 feet: Minor lowland flooding is likely along the banks of the Gunnison River in the vicinity of Delta.
  • 9.45 feet: Flooding of low-lying agricultural land possible upstream of Delta
  • 10 feet: Water reaches the base of the berms in the Four Seasons River Inn RV Park and Riverwood Mobile Home Park. Water nears the top of the berm separating Confluence Park from the Gunnison River. The right bank across from Confluence Park floods
  • 10.5 feet: the river gauge site is flooded
  • 11 feet: Flooding of low-lying agricultural land begins; portions of Confluence Park near the river are flooded. Some hiking trails near the confluence with the Uncompahgre River are covered by water.

Dolores River near Bedrock is holding steady just below its 9.7-foot action stage, at which point the Hwy 141 Bridge downstream from Bedrock would have to be shut down. If the dam upstream at McPhee Reservoir has to be opened to increase flow into the river, a sudden spike is likely downstream near Bedrock soon after.

Plateau Creek near Cameo gets nearly high enough to flood homes near the creek, but the official forecast is just shy of that point. The forecast brings the river up to 7.82 feet on Saturday. Homes start flooding at about 8 feet.

The rivers are filling largely because of runoff from spring snow melt. The snow is melting at up to two inches per day. Scattered to widespread showers and thunderstorms are adding to the runoff. They’re adding to the problem, but they are not the root cause of the problem. Rivers will rise even in areas that have not had rainfall in months. Rivers are running high and fast, and they are dangerous even if they are below flood stage.

Our Next 24 Hours

This evening will be partly to mostly cloudy with a small chance for a stray shower or thunderstorm. Most of the showers and storms will stay over the mountains. Sunset is at 8:22 PM. We’ll cool from lower 80s around 6 PM to upper 60s by 10 PM. The rest of tonight will be partly to mostly cloudy. Low temperatures by morning will be near 55 degrees around Grand Junction, 49 degrees around Montrose, 53 degrees around Delta, and 47 degrees around Cortez. Thursday will be partly to mostly cloudy with spotty to scattered showers and thunderstorms. Most of the rain will stay over the mountains, but rain is possible in a couple of isolated spots in the valleys. High temperatures will be near 80 degrees around Grand Junction, 75 degrees around Montrose, 79 degrees around Delta, and 76 degrees around Cortez.