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High runoff pushes Arkansas River to minor flood stages in some communities

Posted at 6:48 PM, Jun 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-12 23:10:14-04

PUEBLO – The Arkansas River is nearing or has already reached minor flood stage in a couple of Southern Colorado communities. National Weather Service is forecasting the river could pass 10 feet in depth by Friday in Cañon City.

Downstream in Avondale, the river gauge data show the Arkansas crested a high point of 7.26 feet at around 8:00 p.m. Tuesday. Since then, the level has dropped below the 7 foot minor flood depth threshold and is expected to remain there for the next few days.

“It’s minor flooding, high water, but we’ve got more coming,” said Tony Anderson, a Service Hydrologist witht he National Weather Service in Pueblo. That’s the concern and we don’t know how much or when.”

Anderson explained all of the warm sunny days this week have sped up the pace of snow melting high up in the Rocky Mountains. A considerable amount of snow remains on the ground. A worst case scenario wuld be for a heavy downpour over those snowpack areas.

“Most of the storms tend to be lower and lower altitudes where the snow is already gone,” Anderson said. “It would actually be a fairly rare event to get a big storm up in the high country like that.”

At the spillway at Lake Pueblo State Park, angler Terry Eller was hoping to catch a fish swimming around in all the extra water. He said a few years ago when the river level was this high, he nabbed a 28 inch rainbow trout.

Eller said the force of the rushing water has left a small lake right at the mouth of the dam gates where larger fish tend to congregate.

“So, it’s really deep and huge and nobody can get up in there to fish. So, there’s no pressure. So, they just sit there.”

While the extra water may make for good fishing, Anderson wants people to use caution near the river.

“If you’re are on or near the river, a life jacket is almost mandatory at this point,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense to take the risk to not have one on.”

There are active flood warnings in place until Friday for the Arkansas River in Cañon City, the Rio Grande River near Del Norte, the Saguache Creek in Saguach County, the Conejos and San Antonio Rivers in Conejos County and in the Rio Grande and San Juan drainage basins in Mineral and Rio Grande Counties.