Beginning the week of May 6, the Town of Vail will establish two distribution points for free sand material and empty bags for residents and merchants who wish to safeguard their property from the possibility of high water. Sand and bags will be available at the parking lot near the I-70 interchange in East Vail and at the North Trail parking lot in West Vail. Residents should bring a shovel and be prepared to fill their own bags while supplies last. Contractors are asked to make their own arrangements for sandbags for commercial construction projects.
Spring runoff typically peaks between late-May and mid-June, when streams reach their highest flow and height. As of May 2, Vail Mountain was at 80 percent of normal Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), a measure of water content in the existing snowpack. However, this does not provide a good indication as to whether or not a flooding event will occur, according to Tom Kassmel, the town’s floodplain administrator. He says the main contributing factor to a large-scale runoff flood event is snowmelt rate. A cold, snowy spring with a quick warm up in late May and early June, sets the stage for high flows. For daily updates on stream flow data, visit the U.S. Geological Survey website. Gore Creek and other Eagle County river data are available by scrolling down to 14010003 Eagle.
Area streams most prone to flooding in Vail include: Black Gore Creek near The Heather and Gore Creek at the intersection of Bridge Road and Lupine Drive in East Vail; Mill Creek near Mill Creek Circle in Vail Village; and Red Sandstone Creek near the Brooktree Condominiums and Buffehr Creek from Circle Drive to the North Frontage Road in West Vail. As the weather warms, police and public safety crews will begin daily water level checks at approximately 90 locations throughout the town, including culverts, catch basins and bridges. Nightly checks are added to the rounds once the peak runoff season hits. Eagle River Water & Sanitation District crews monitor rising river levels and large stream debris that could pose a hazard to aerial mains that cross above creeks.
Additional flood prevention efforts will be taking place this spring when town crews will be sandbagging some of the problem areas, such as the Covered Bridge in Vail Village, in advance of the snowmelt. Private property owners are being encouraged to do the same and to remove the sandbags once flood season ends. Citizens who observe large amounts of debris in the creeks near bridges or significant running water in unusual places are encouraged to call 911.
The Eagle County Office of Emergency Management is participating in weekly conference calls with the National Weather Service and Colorado Basin River Forecast Center to help forecast river levels and flooding potential. Information on flood preparedness efforts and sandbag availability throughout the county can be found at eaglecounty.us.
Anyone wishing to volunteer for possible emergency sandbagging operations should contact the Vail Police Department at 970-479-2200 and register with the Community Emergency Response Team. Residents are asked to avoid getting near flooded areas or fast-moving water without appropriate safety gear and training.
Residents are reminded of the importance of being prepared for any emergency by assembling a kit containing a three-day food and water supply, as well as medications, toiletries, pet supplies, flashlight, radio and extra batteries. Visit ready.gov for more recommendations on personal emergency preparedness.
To receive free emergency alerts on flooding and other hazards via email and/or text message, subscribe to the countywide emergency alert system at ecalert.org. For information on sandbag materials in Vail, contact Vail Streets Superintendent Charlie Turnbull at 970-477-3425 or call 970-390-3008 in case of an emergency.