Expert warns higher than normal snowpack could lead to serious spring flooding in some areas

9:40 PM, Feb 24, 2014   |    comments
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ESTES PARK - For Rob Pieper, some of the finishing touches just came in to Poppy's Pizza & Grill. It's a milestone in what has been a months-long recovery for the Estes Park restaurant owner.

"It's gotten to the point where you don't really notice much," he said.

What you don't notice as much, he said, is the flood damage in the town of Estes Park. Yet, there have been changes here, to both the terrain and the waterways.

"The river has changed its course," Pieper said. "Everything has changed over the last six months."

Those changes have been noted by Will Birchfield, Estes Park's Chief Building Official and flood plain administrator. He has been keeping an eye on an unusually high snowpack in the area: it now stands at 125 percent of average. Couple that with the terrain changes, and there are concerns that come spring, some areas could experience unexpected flooding.

"Since some of the channels have changed, we have dangers now that we didn't necessarily have before this," Birchfield said.

He said, for some areas, the flooding could as bad as September, and at least one other state official agreed. It is not the kind of news people in Estes Park would want to hear. They say they fought hard to come back from the floods.

"Within the town of Estes Park, we are really above 90-percent as far as our recovery," said Brooke Burnham, director of communications for "Visit Estes Park."

They are now watching an economic recovery, which needs a great spring and summer season, in order to bounce back from last year's disaster-- a season where they don't need the possibility of flooding.

For Rob Pieper, it's a concern, but one he simply plans to keep in the back of his mind, for now.

"There's always that worry," Pieper said. "You can't live by worry though."

According to flood plain administrator Will Birchfield, there are a lot of variables to consider when looking at the possibility of flooding from snowpack melt. Those include whether the spring is unusually warm or unusually wet, which is something that won't know until the spring.



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