There’s a lot of snow up in our mountains, but it is still early to get overly concerned about excessive spring runoff. We do expect runoff out of the frontal canyons east of Provo for the first time since 2011, and flows in the Provo River through town will likely exceed 1000 cfs for some period of time. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of variables to play out in terms of additional winter snowfall and spring weather that will determine whether the runoff period is barely noticed, or something much more significant. The good news is that the snowpack should go a long ways toward recharging ground water aquifers and to refilling Utah Lake and upstream reservoirs.
The Numbers – Snow Pack at higher elevations in the Provo River basin is slightly over 2 feet of water (26” at Trial Lake and 25” at Timp Divide). Snow pack immediately above Rock Canyon (Cascade Mountain) is 19” of water. This is the highest snow pack as of February 1st since 1997, and the second highest in the last forty years. The runoff in 1997 was noticeable, but not significant. There have been much more significant spring runoff years with lower snowpacks on February 1st, which shows the difficulty of forecasting runoff this early in the season.
Preparations – Given the potential that exists for high runoff this year, we are beginning preparations for that possibility. Pumps and other equipment will be inspected and refurbished to be ready to respond, stockpiles of sandbags and sand will be replenished, and inspections and maintenance of the Provo River and the outfall channels will be performed to maximize capacity.
Thanks goes to Greg Beckstrom for the update. I plan on sharing another update in early March, so stay tuned for more details.