News Flash

Summit County Government

Posted on: May 25, 2018

Sheriff's Office Urges Caution During Spring Runoff

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High water levels can be dangerous for boaters, drivers, children and pets

Contact: Erin Opsahl, Summit County Sheriff's Office, 970-423-8901


SUMMIT COUNTY, CO – With local river flows at or near their peak, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office reminds residents and visitors to be mindful of high water levels throughout the area. Waterways in and around Summit County can be dangerous this time of year, during the spring runoff.

“Our snowpack is a little below average,” stated Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons. “However, our rivers and streams are still running fast and cold, so we need to treat them with the appropriate level of respect and caution.”

When participating in outdoor activities on or near the water this spring, the Sheriff's Office urges people to be cautious of fast currents caused by elevated flows. It’s especially dangerous for children and pets playing along the shores of fast-moving water, as they can easily slip on wet, muddy banks and be swept away.

The Sheriff’s Office strongly discourages people from any recreational activities in the water without proper training, experience and equipment.

"Summit County rivers can look tempting on warm, sunny days, but they have a strong current and flow. In the past, our rescue team has responded to individuals taking inflatable pool toys down one of our local streams, who then ended up stranded in the river. Enjoy the recreation that Summit County offers, but please use the appropriate level of safety,” FitzSimons stated.

Currents are likely to be especially strong during extended periods of warm, sunny weather and during prolonged rain events. Flows in some stretches are also influenced by the release of water from dams. Summit County’s rivers and streams typically experience peak flows during late May through mid-June. For detailed, real-time information on local stream flows, see the Summit County Swift-Water Safety and Flood Preparedness Guide (www.SummitCountyCO.gov/flood), which contains links to data from key stream gauges throughout Summit County.

As a reminder, register for Summit County Alert to receive public information and emergency messages. Sign up at scalert.org.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the Summit County Office of Emergency Management recommend the following guidelines to stay safe around high water:

  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground immediately.
  • Stay away from flood-prone areas, including dips, low spots, valleys, ditches, washes, etc.
  • Avoid flooded areas and those with fast-moving water. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream. Six inches of moving water is all it takes to sweep a person off his or her feet.
  • Don’t allow children or pets to play near high water, storm drains, culverts or ditches.
  • Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by floodwaters. Never drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. It only takes two feet of water to carry away most automobiles.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when water levels are high or fluctuating.
  • When recreating in or around the water, use the proper size and type of personal floatation device (PFD, or life jacket).
  • Anglers should wear wading belts to prevent water from entering waders during a fall.
  • Be especially cautious at night, when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Monitor NOAA Weather Radio or your local media for vital weather-related information.
  • Review the Summit County Swift-Water Safety and Flood Preparedness Guide for additional information and resources: www.SummitCountyCO.gov/flood.


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