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  • Dylan Anderson

Hayden officials expect Yampa River to crest at 50-year flood levels similar to 2011

Residential damage nears $600,000 and the town is working with philanthropic organizations to support residents.

Hayden Yampa River Flooding
This map from the Federal Emergency Management Agency shows that much of the Town of Hayden isn't considered to be threatened by Yampa River flooding. (FEMA/Courtesy)

The Town of Hayden expects the Yampa River to reach peak flows earlier that an estimate, with that peak likely coming at between 12,000 and 13,000 cubic feet per second, Public Works Director Bryan Richards told Town Council on Thursday.

A peak at that level would constitute a 50-year flood, which means in any given year there is just a 2% chance of flooding to reach that level. Flows at this level would be similar to what the Yampa River reached at a gauge west of town — just upstream of the river’s confluence with Elkhead Creek — in 2011.


“We did some sandbag operations down at the water treatment plant,” Richards said, noting that sandbags have been reused from earlier flooding mitigation effort in town. “We had about 4 inches of water on the road [to the water treatment plant].”


The town is still working to clean up efforts from the flooding of Dry Creek last month, which some residents said was the worst in their memory. Still, the Yampa River flooding is not expected to impact residents to the same degree. Instead, the town’s infrastructure at water and wastewater treatment plants is the biggest concern, as each are positioned right next to the river.


Dry Creek flooding led to “major damage” of at least six homes in Hayden, based on an assessment from the American Red Cross. Town Manager Mathew Mendisco told council on Thursday that damage to residential properties is estimated at about $600,000.


Damage from that flooding to town infrastructure — bridges, parks and sewer infrastructure — has totaled $1.2 million, a slightly lower estimate than what was shared with Town Council two weeks ago.

However, that damage and other impacts from flooding across the state have not risen to the level of a state disaster declaration, which would have allowed federal relief. Mendisco said it appears the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Management will not recommend that level of declaration unless there are more impacts in the next week or so.


“At the moment it doesn’t look like were going to have a state declaration,” Mendisco said.

The town has reached out to philanthropic organizations to find funding to support residents in their efforts to repair damage to their homes. Mendisco said one home may not be habitable in its entirety due to flooding and others have significant damage to crawl spaces.


Mendisco said the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and Routt County United Way are working to set up a pathway to help these residents.


At about 10 p.m. on Thursday, the Yampa River was flowing at about 9,300 cfs at the gauge west of Hayden, which was slightly lower than flows on Wednesday that had reached 9,700 cfs.


In Steamboat Springs at the gauge near the Fifth Street bridge, the river was flowing just over 3,400 cfs on Thursday. The city’s Streets Division has set up sandbag stations at six areas in the city: Crawford and Pahwintah, Ninth and Pine, Pamela Lane, Honey Suckle Lane, Meadowood Lane and Stone Lane.

Snow has been melting off rapidly in the Yampa, White and Green River basin. On May 1, snow water equivalent in the basin was measured at 26 inches and as of Thursday that had declined to 15.3 inches. Still, none of the waterways in Routt County have been deemed to reach flood stage on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.


The closest to flood stage is the Elk River, which was measured at 7.3 feet on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Flood stage for the Elk River is considered to be 7.5 feet. The Weather Service does have flood warning in effect for this area between Milner and Steamboat and could reach 7.6 feet on Friday.

The warning notes the Elk River could see a peak on Saturday at 8 feet. This would be similar to the river’s peak in 2019 when it reached 8.1 feet. This could impact ranch buildings between Routt County Road 44 and the river.


“Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded roads. Most flood deaths occur in vehicles,” the Weather Service warns. “Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize the dangers of flooding.”

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