Park City readies sandbags amid risk of spring flooding
Snowpack remains well above average at the higher elevations
April 11, 2017
The high-elevation snowpack in Park City remains well above average for mid-April, prompting City Hall officials to make sandbags available to guard against the possibility of flooding later in the spring.
The National Weather Service reported on Monday the snowpack at a measuring station at an elevation of 9,200 feet in Thaynes Canyon was at 136 percent of a typical year. The number was a little bit below the percentage in 2011 and 2005, two other winters with significant snowfall, said Brian McInerney, a National Weather Service hydrologist who closely tracks snowpack.
McInerney said there is a possibility of damaging floods in the Park City area if cold, wet weather were to return for the spring. He said the runoff in the Park City area usually does not peak until late May or early June, leaving more than a month before the threat of flooding is significantly reduced. The snowpack peak in 2005 was not hit until the middle of May and, in 2011, the snowpack peak was not reached until the third week of May, he said. The snowpack peak and the peak of the runoff are closely related.
"We've got enough snow to produce high flows coming out of the mountains this year," he said, expecting, though, there will not be damaging flooding in the Park City area as a result of melting snow.
McInerney said flooding inside Park City would more likely be caused by a heavy rainstorm during the snowmelt peak or if debris blocks the streamflow during the runoff, sending water over the banks. McInerney said there have been five consecutive years of spring runoff that was below average, meaning that debris like branches, trees and vegetation has accumulated over that time. He suggested people who live close to streams ensure there is not debris that could block the flow prior to the height of the runoff. During the runoff, he said, people should not approach the streams since the high flow and cold water temperatures create dangerous conditions.
The Park City Public Utilities Department is readying for the height of the runoff. Troy Dayley, the streets manager, said the department wants residents to monitor streams and creeks. Poison Creek, which runs from Old Town through Prospector, and McLeod Creek, running through Park Meadows and Thaynes Canyon, are the two streams that flow through Park City.
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Dayley said crews are checking locations along the two creeks twice daily. They are monitoring the "known chokepoints," he said, such as a spot toward the southern end of Daly Avenue. Nearly 30 locations are checked daily, he said. The workers remove debris that would restrict flow when it is found.
Dayley said, though, the snow has melted at elevations lower than 8,000 feet. That could lead to an orderly overall snowmelt season.
"The good thing is we've melted a lot of our lower elevation off," he said.
The Public Utilities Department, meanwhile, had filled approximately 2,000 sandbags by early in the week. They are available to Park City residents. The first 25 are free. If someone wants more than 25, the bags and sand are free, but the person must fill the bags themselves. The bags are available at the Public Works Building, 1053 Iron Horse Drive. The department has approximately 20,000 empty bags. Only a few people had picked up sandbags by early in the week.
City Hall issued a report early in the week briefing Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council about the situation. The report, written by stormwater coordinator Chris Morgan, acknowledges the snowpack remains at a higher percentage than is typical.
"With recent warm/cold cycling runoff has the potential to increase quickly," the report says. "The higher than normal snow pack doesn't necessarily mean flooding is imminent."
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