Although northern Utah's snowpack is heavier than usual, the Salt Lake area may escape serious flooding - provided ordinary spring weather continues as expected.
"I think we'll be OK if we have one, maybe two, days of 90-degree temperature," Brian McInerney, hydrologist with the National Weather Service, told state and federal agency experts on Tuesday. But if a hot spell stretches on for three or four days, some low areas could flood, he said.McInerney quickly added that no indication of unusually toasty weather is on the horizon.
Another way Mom Nature could trigger flooding would be "if we have an intense rainfall," perhaps an inch for one storm in the period from mid-May to mid-June while the streams are already full. If a powerful thunderstorm sweeps in, weather forecasters will track it carefully with radar so emergency control workers can be ready as needed.
Several worrisome places in Utah include:
- The Green River near Jensen, Uintah County. The Yampa River, which joins the Green upstream from Jensen, is flowing at 140 to 150 percent of normal. Big releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir into the Green could contribute to flooding.
However, coping with such a flood shouldn't be difficult because most of the country is farmland, with a few isolated homes.
- Utah Lake and the Jordan River. Because Utah Lake is already as high as water users and farmers nearby will allow it to go, Utah Lake managers are dumping water into the Jordan River at 800 cubic feet per second. With both lake and river full, extra water could pose a danger.
According to Randy Julander, supervisor of the snow survey office of the federal government's Natural Resources Conservation Service, other places needing a close watch are the Bear River basin, where snow is "significantly higher than the (flood year) 1983 snowpack"; the Weber River at Oakley, Summit County; the Logan River; the Duchesne River; and Farmington Canyon.
David Toronto, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said in the last half of January the Salt Lake region received 278 percent of normal precipitation for that whole month.
However, weather patterns predicted for the next 10 days don't seem threatening, so the snowpack may melt safely.
Still, Toronto warned, "Kind of expect the normal, but be prepared for something in the extremes."
The 1996 spring flood potential briefing, held in the State Office Building, was sponsored by the Utah Division of Comprehensive Emergency Management.