Park City-area flood threat heightened with snow pack sitting well above normal
March 22, 2011
The amount of snow in the mountains ringing Park City is well above normal, the National Weather Service reports, raising concerns that there could be flooding in the coming months as the snow melts and water runs off the higher elevations.
Brian McInerney, a Salt Lake City-based National Weather Service hydrologist who closely monitors the snow pack, said on Monday the amount of water content in the snow recorded at a measuring station in the Thaynes Canyon area of Park City Mountain Resort was 131 percent of normal. There is more snow forecast this week.
Meanwhile, he said, the soil in the area was saturated months ago, during a rainy fall and then the early arrival of snowfall.
"It heightens the flood threat. Anything that falls will run off," McInerney said.
He said if houses and buildings suffered seepage before during the runoff period, the same should be expected this year in Park City.
The danger of there being flooding in the area depends on the weather through the early summer. If the spring weather is warm and dry, the snow will melt in an orderly fashion, meaning that the runoff will remain in the stream beds, McInerney said.
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But if the spring is cold and snowy followed by quickly increasing temperatures, there could be flooding during the runoff, particularly if there is a rainstorm at the same time, he said.
McInerney said he anticipated the water from the melting snow to start running off as early as this week. The runoff period typically peaks in the middle of May or later that month.
He expected a snowy weather pattern through the end of March, meaning that the window for the snow to melt in an orderly fashion will be shortened.
There are two waterways inside Park City where there is the danger of flooding — Poison Creek and McLeod Creek.
Poison Creek runs from the mountains south of Old Town, through the edge of the neighborhood and then along the border of City Park. It exits Park City along a route that roughly follows the Rail Trail. McLeod Creek, meanwhile, flows down from the Thaynes Canyon and travels out of Park City along the S.R. 224 corridor.
There are residences along parts of both of the waterways. A row of houses on the upper reaches of Main Street and Daly Avenue is situated especially close to Poison Creek.
There are a number of other waterways scattered throughout Summit County that are also susceptible to flooding.
City Hall officials on Friday are scheduled to huddle to discuss the threat of flooding. Hugh Daniels, who manages the municipal government’s emergency planning, said the Public Works Department, the Police Department and City Hall’s spokesperson are expected to discuss the situation during the meeting.
Daniels said City Hall has secured approximately 10,000 unfilled sandbags and sand to fill them in anticipation of the snow melt. The Public Works Department has started filling them, with Daniels hoping to have at least 1,000 sandbags filled by April 1. The sandbags are available both to City Hall and the public.
He said there will also be discussions about positioning heavy machinery like backhoes in places where there is a threat of flooding. Doing so would ensure the equipment is nearby in an emergency situation, reducing the response time by the crews. Daniels said workers might also be dispatched to monitor spots that are at risk of flooding.
City Hall will likely mount a public-relations campaign starting in April about the flooding risks, Daniels said.
Officials want Parkites to report flooding or drainage problems. In the event of an emergency, City Hall requests people call the Police Department, 615-5500. A situation that is not an emergency should be reported to the city engineer, 615-5055.