As river levels rise and fall with the weather this spring emergency management officials in the Roaring Fork, Frying Pan and Crystal River valleys are standing by in case what has begun as a typical spring runoff creates a flooding threat.
A multi-agency Incident Management Team (IMT) has been formed to coordinate planning and emergency response should flooding occur. Officials from the City of Aspen, Town of Basalt, and Pitkin and Eagle Counties are using information supplied by the National Weather Service, Roaring Fork Conservancy, Water Conservation Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and local river “spotters” to be proactive about when and if water levels begin to cause problems.
“So far we’re seeing a fairly typical runoff,” said Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department Operations Director, Alex Burchetta. “Warming followed by cooling trends have allowed the snow in the high country to melt gradually and that’s been keeping the rivers well inside their banks,” Burchetta said.
Beginning this week and through the long Memorial Day weekend, the Pitkin County Public Safety Council is circulating swift water safety messaging to the public. This week, May 20-26, is also National Safe Boating Week,which promotes the importance of life jackets and sober boating.
“We’re not worried about flooding this Memorial Day Weekend but we are concerned about the safety of the recreating public in and around our creeks and rivers,” said Burchetta. “There’s a new kayak wave feature now open in Basalt and the rafting companies will be in full swing. We’re reminding folks to wear PFDs and avoid hypothermia by being prepared.”
Roaring Fork Conservancy is keeping a close eye on river levels as well and helping the public gain access to and understand streamflow data. “We are encouraging everyone to prioritize safety while fishing, boating or exploring the banks of the rivers this season,” said Liza Mitchell, Education & Outreach Coordinator for RFC, “Although there is no immediate concern for flooding, rivers are flowing swiftly and water temperatures are very cold.” Real-time information on river levels for the Fryingpan, Crystal, Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers can be accessed through RFC’s website at http://www.roaringfork.org/your-watershed/river-flow/.
Should the threat of flooding occur as the weather warms this runoff season the goal of the combined flood management effort will be 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.