Park City snow shovels give way to sandbags as flood preparations start
Snow shovels were needed in Park City last winter as storm after storm pummeled the area.
Sandbags might be needed in the spring and early summer as the melting snow sends water rushing into the community’s waterways.
Park City officials are preparing for the possibility of flooding from this year’s runoff as the water makes its way from the upper elevations to the lower elevations and then out of the city through the streams.
There have not been significant issues thus far, but the runoff is expected to continue for weeks and possibly longer. There is the possibility of additional snow accumulating, something that would eventually increase the runoff. The National Weather Forecast calls for the possibility of snow in Park City on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The volumes are going to be quite large,” Brian McInerney, a National Weather Service hydrologist who closely tracks snowpack, said about the runoff.
He said the peak is expected from May until the middle of June. The snowpack in the Park City area in late April was approximately 155 percent of average. McInerney said there is “still a lot up there.”
He warned the streams — filled with cold, fast-moving water — are dangerous to people and pets. McInerney said damaging flooding is not expected in the Park City area. That projection could change based on the weather in the spring and early summer.
Officials hope for what they consider to be an orderly snowmelt season. Under that scenario, temperatures gradually increase in the spring and early summer, melting the snow at the lower elevations first. The water from the snowmelt at the lower elevations would be largely clear of the streams as the water from the melting snow at the upper elevations begins to descend. If cool, wet weather arrives followed by a quick warming trend, the snowmelt would be more problematic.
There are two waterways in Park City — Poison Creek and McLeod Creek — that officials monitor during the snowmelt season. The Public Utilities Department is currently checking 27 locations in Park City two times per day and plans to continue to do so until early June. The checks started in the middle of April.
“Right now, everything’s coming off in an orderly fashion,” said Troy Dayley, the public works manager for City Hall, explaining that he is concerned but not “overly worried.”
Dayley said in his 30 years working for the municipal government there has not been flooding caused by volumes of water so large that the streams could not contain the flow. The floods over that period were caused by debris blockages that forced the water to jump the banks, he said.
He said the crews do not want the snow at the lower, middle and upper elevations to melt at once, something that would happen if the weather becomes hot quickly.
Dayley said City Hall anticipates the highest flows toward the end of May. He cautioned groundwater levels could rise as well and people who rely on sump pumps in crawl spaces and basements should ensure the equipment is working properly.
The Public Utilities Department is also readying sandbags. Park City residents are eligible to receive 25 sandbags at no cost. The department charges a nominal fee if someone wants more than 25. The sandbags are available at the Public Works Building, 1053 Iron Horse Drive.
The winter was among the snowiest in years in the Park City area as a relentless string of storms struck. Skiers and snowboarders rejoiced as large crowds arrived in Park City, but the heavy snow was also blamed for numerous traffic accidents and several widely publicized incidents, including the collapse of part of a roof of a Thaynes Canyon house and the partial collapse of a silver mining-era structure on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.
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The Park City Police Department has stepped up its efforts to protect pedestrians after several accidents involving drivers and people walking along a road or crossing one.