HIGH rivers, rising natural surface water in agricultural and livestock fields, country roads washing out – there’s water everywhere across the San Luis Valley.
“We would like to remind people to be aware and prepared for voluntary evacuations if necessary,” Conejos County Sheriff Garth Crowther said in a released statement as Conejos County went under a county flood watch this week.
Both the Rio Grande and Conejos River are running dangerously high and fast. The Rio Grande at the Del Norte gauging station shows a 10-day streamflow average of 4,788 cubic feet per second. The Conejos River, meanwhile, was standing at five feet and the San Antonio River, one of its tributaries east of Manassa along Colorado Highway 142, was flowing at a healthy 1,224 cfs with swampy fields dotting the road to San Luis.
“Still seeing snowpack in the mountains. It feels like it’s going to be a year like we haven’t had in 20 years,” said Rio Grande Water Conservation District General Manager Cleave Simpson.
The month of May has exceeded what’s normal for rain accumulation, with .68 inches of precipitation measured so far. A historically normal May would see a bit over a half-inch of accumulated moisture.
The May rains timed themselves to healthy spring runoffs across the San Juans, which experienced snowfall totals at 200 percent and above of normal. It’s the San Juans that affect the Upper Rio Grande and Conejos streamflows.
On the recreation front, the expected 200 or so participants in this weekend’s Valley Bottom Rio Trio adventure race will find high water to canoe through on the second leg of the race. It’ll be the strongest and highest streamflow that canoers have had to deal with in the three years of the adventure race.
Minor flooding conditions along the banks of the Rio Grande through Alamosa also had organizers re-route the overall race course.
For Valley residents who may find themselves in flood watch or flood warning conditions, Conejos County offered these tips:
- Gather emergency supplies, including non-perishable food and water. Store at least 1 gallon of drinking water per day for each person and pet.
- If it looks like you need to evacuate, turn off all utilities at the main switch and close the main gas valve.
- Leave areas subject to flooding such as low spots, canyons, washes etc.