The Dolores River at the town of Dolores reached peak flows this week from above average snowpack runoff, but still remains below flood stage, officials report.
On Tuesday, the river was flowing at 6.2 feet, or 3,640 cubic feet per second. That is down from Sunday’s peak flow of 7 feet or 4,800 cfs. Flood stage in Dolores occurs at 8 feet, or about 6,000 cfs.
There are no flood advisories or warnings for the Dolores River from the National Weather Service.
But as a precaution, the Montezuma County sheriff, health department, and emergency manager initiated a public-awareness campaign in Dolores on flood dangers and preparedness. Bulletin boards with flood information and advice were placed at the library, post office, and grocery story.
People can fill up free 50-pound sandbags at the county shop on Road 30, located about a mile south of Dolores, via the Fourth Street Bridge.
Emergency planner Mike Pasquin obtained 20,000 sandbags, and the county road department is providing the sand. Over the weekend, dozens of residents showed up and hauled away more than 1,000 of them. Residents should bring their own shovel.
“Sandbags will continue to be available for the public,” Pasquin said.
They were also sent over for Mancos residents who are facing flood advisories for the bank-full Mancos River, which has flood advisories.
A low-lying neighborhood 12 miles north of Dolores on Road 37 has seen some flooding in yards and fields, but residents still have access to their homes, Nowlin said. A residence in the area was encouraged to build up a low river bank to prevent future flooding.
Officials also identified and contacted immobile residents who would require assistance in the case of evacuation from flooding.
Sheriff Steve Nowlin advises the public to avoid boating on the upper Dolores River because of the fast, high conditions and lack of clearance for boats floating under bridges.
The frigid high water has also picked up a lot of logs and debris. So far there have been no accidents or injuries reported by boaters.
“To keep safe, please wait until the water level lowers so we can avoid a rescue situation that puts responders at risk as well,” Nowlin said.
Creating runoff forecasts from snowpack, which remains well into June, in the Dolores Basin has been challenging.
Cloudy weather has blocked satellite images relied on to predict snowpack and runoff, reports the Dolores Water Conservancy District. Eyewitnesses report significant snow remains in the high mountains, with backcountry skiing still an option on Lizard Head Pass.
Officials are hopeful peak flows have passed, but “you never know,” Nowlin said, adding that if there is another surge “there is still room in the channel.”
Last week, the Dolores River started coming out of its banks along Road 37, said resident Jeffry L. Jahraus. Eight to 10 properties were getting water.
Flooding has happened at their property once or twice before, he said, but never like this. The Jahrauses live along Road 37, near the site of the now-famous rock slide that occurred Memorial Day Weekend.
Jahraus used his tractor to lower the gravel on his driveway, in order for the water to drain, he said. He also put up a wooden barrier in between the flooded area and his house, and some neighbors came by to assist filling sandbags.
Journal reporter Erika Alvero contributed to this report.