Even though local snowpack did not reach record levels last ski season the recent surge of snowmelt-affected river levels has emergency management officials on the alert for possible flooding in the coming weeks. A multijurisdictional mud/flood incident management team (IMT) was activated this week to not only closely monitor water levels, snowmelt and the weather, but to plan for emergency sandbagging and possible evacuations if severe wet weather were to combine with high runoff causing area creeks and rivers to overflow.
“It’s the spring ‘microburst’ that we worry about the most,” said Basalt Fire Chief, Scott Thompson. “That’s when a relatively short, but severe rain or thunderstorm occurs that can add a significant amount of water to our already swollen streams and rivers. These can cause flooding and mudslides and we want to be ready for that,” Thompson said.
The multi-agency IMT includes officials from the City of Aspen, towns of Basalt and Carbondale,and Pitkin and Eagle Counties working together to supply information to the public about snowmelt conditions and emergency preparedness. Officials are relying on information supplied by the National Weather Service, Water Conservation Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and local river “spotters” to help the public be proactive when and if water levels could begin to cause problems.
“We keep a close eye on low lying areas in Lazy Glen and Basalt – especially the Roaring Fork at the confluence with the Frying Pan River,” Thompson said. “We look for debris accumulating around bridge abutments that could back water up. Sheriff’s deputies on patrol day and night are watching river and creek levels and reporting anything they see that might cause flooding.”
Citizens are encouraged to sandbag their properties if they think flooding could occur. Sand and sandbags are available at most local hardware stores. Pitkin County Public Works has a supply of sand but sandbags are reserved for road and bridge infrastructure and in case of emergency.
“On of the goals of the combined flood management effort is to help citizens help themselves. In the event of flooding emergencies, the priority of rescue personnel will be to respond to health and life safety issues. Residents in low-lying areas that are able are expected to prepare themselves and their property for the advent of flooding,” Thompson said.
Officials recommend that everyone take this opportunity to sign up for Pitkin Alert at www.pitkinalert.org. Should flooding be eminent Pitkin Alert members may receive alerts via email and text messages. If evacuations are necessary or other flooding related emergencies occur residents will be notified with the reverse 911 system or with door-to-door warnings.
Preparedness TipsWhat you can do for yourself Listen to local radio, tune in to local television, read local newspapers for emergency advisories, updates and instructions.Sign up for Pitkin AlertKnow what the weather is doing. Monitor NOAA Weather Radio or your local media for vital weather information.If flooding occurs, get to higher ground.If you have natural gas or propane appliances, try to turn off the electric power to the house at the outside electrical panel.Stay away from ground level transformers that are inundated by flood waters.Keep children and pets away from fast moving or high water.Do not camp or park you vehicle along streams and washes.If kayaking or rafting during runoff, watch for logs and floating debris.Prepare family 72 hr survival kits with essential food, water and supplies for at least three days. The kit should be kept in a designated place and be ready to “grab and go” in case you must leave your house quickly.Purchase sandbags and sand at most local hardware stores.If water has entered a garage or basement, do not walk through it – it may contain hazardous materials. Never drive through flooded roadways If you car stalls, abandon it immediately. Attempting to move a stalled vehicle could be fatal.Avoid downed power lines and broken gas lines.Kayakers and rafters should report overturned “runaway” boats to authorities to let them know whether or not a rescue is needed.Report flood related emergencies by calling 911.
Colorado Division of Emergency Managementhttp://www.dola.state.co.us/oem/National Weather Servicehttp://www.crh.noaa.govU.S. Department of Geological Services – Waterwatchhttp://www.usgs.gov/