Park City deploys heavy machinery amid danger of runoff flooding
The recent cool, wet weather reached Park City at a time when the snowmelt season was already underway, leading to continued concerns about the possibility of flooding as the heavy winter snowpack sends even more water into streams amid the precipitation.
City Hall has been concerned about the snowmelt season for months, as a chain of snowstorms pummeled the area last winter. Officials have been monitoring the snowpack and weather patterns in the spring while planning for the possibility of flooding. They had hoped for what they consider to be an orderly snowmelt season. Under that scenario, temperatures would warm gradually, allowing the snow at lower elevations to melt and enter the waterways prior to the snow melting at the higher elevations.
But the cool, wet weather recently has impacted the snowmelt schedule. There is concern the recent weather may increase the possibility of quickly warming temperatures that could result in a rapid snowmelt rather than a gradual one.
Mike McComb, City Hall’s emergency program manager, and Public Works Manager Troy Dayley drafted an update in anticipation of a Park City Council meeting on Thursday. It is not clear whether the elected officials intend to discuss the topic on Thursday, but Mayor Andy Beerman and the City Council have received regular updates during the spring.
The snowpack reached between 142 percent and 162 percent of the 30-year average, according to the report. The snowpack itself prompted officials to prepare for the runoff, but the cool, wet weather has complicated matters as it has led to accumulating snow at the higher elevations. The snowmelt had been orderly in the early and mid-spring.
The update submitted to the elected officials was drafted in mid-May, and at the time the forecast called for precipitation and temperatures that were below average. The report said “forecasted lower-than-average temperatures and periods of mixed precipitation over the next 7-10 days, is likely to slow down or temporarily pause the smooth melt-off process we have experienced so far this season.”
“The duration of the active weather pattern could put us into late May or early June, when seasonal daily temperatures are higher — so there is a possible scenario in which a high volume of water is coming off the mountains in a short period of time,” the report says.
The report also provides an update on the water levels in the Park City-area creeks. None was approaching flood stage by the middle of May. According to the report, the water level in McLeod Creek was recorded as high as approximately 7.6 feet, below the flood stage of 8.9 feet. The Silver Creek water level was approximately 6 feet, well under the 9-foot level of flood stage while the water level in East Canyon Creek was found to be approximately 6.2 feet, below the flood stage of 9.3 feet.
The report cautions the runoff could increase quickly, but the snowpack “doesn’t necessarily mean flooding is imminent.”
City Hall continues to monitor 27 locations where rising water could be problematic with twice-daily inspections. Officials are especially worried that debris in the waterways could cause blockages that could send water over the banks. The report says there “has not been any significant debris loading at the locations inspected to date.”
Officials have moved an excavator into place toward the southern end of Daly Avenue as a precaution, the report says, “in the event rapid clearing of debris is required at that location.” Poison Creek runs on the east side of Daly Avenue, behind the residences on that side of the road. A 2004 flood that badly damaged several houses in the southern reaches of Main Street, close to Daly Avenue, was blamed on a combination of heavy rains and debris that clogged the waterway.
Park City, meanwhile, has sandbags available to residents and businesses inside the city. They are eligible to receive 25 bags that are already filled per address. They can fill additional bags with the bags and sand provided by City Hall free of charge. The sand and bags are located at the Public Works Building, 1053 Iron Horse Drive. Officials request someone checks in with the front desk and logs are kept. City Hall also wants homeowners and businesses to inspect ditches on their property and remove debris as well as rocks that are designed to serve as water features.
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