Rain and abnormally warm temperatures this spring could cause serious flooding below the 416 Fire burn scar.
“We will be watching that area closely,” said meteorologist Chris Cuoco with the National Weather Service.
The area is not expected to see above-average temperatures in March, April and May, he said.
But every storm is different and the long-range forecast for average temperatures does not rule out periods of warm weather, he said.
Rain on snow would cause the worst flooding for the Hermosa area during the runoff season.
“We are going to be very sensitive to that,” Cuoco said.
Higher daytime temperatures and warm nights could also cause higher runoff, said Butch Knowlton, La Plata County director of emergency management.
“We are going to get water. It’s going to be a nuisance for some people,” he said.
The areas most likely to be affected by high levels of runoff are near or below Dyke Canyon, Tripp Creek and Hermosa Creek, he said.
Nighttime temperatures below freezing would help moderate the runoff flows, Knowlton said during an Animas River Community Forum on Thursday.
The forum brought together representatives from government agencies, ditch companies and nonprofits working on flood mitigation.
Some groups are working on construction projects to divert water and improve flood prediction, but not many projects are expected to be in place before spring runoff.
In the short-term, La Plata County plans to install temporary temperature and rain gauges that will help predict flooding this spring, said Tom McNamara, emergency management coordinator for the county.
The county is also working on putting in another temporary radar system during the summer that would help predict monsoonal systems, Knowlton said.
Flood mitigation on private property is also expected to get started this year, possibly during the summer, said county spokeswoman Megan Graham.
The county will put out bids for the construction, potentially for several properties at a time, she said.
“We want to get the work done as quickly as possible, but there are administrative steps that have to be taken,” she said.
Federal funding will cover 75 percent of the construction on private land through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Property owners interested in participating in the program will be responsible for up to 25 percent of the cost, she said.
Five irrigation companies in the Animas Valley are also preparing for runoff waters that flow into ditches and are carried to areas they would not naturally go, said Ed Zink, the secretary and treasurer for Animas Consolidated Ditch.
The ditch companies received about $200,000 in grant funding and provided about $100,000 in a local match to fund construction and to help keep ditches clear of silt and debris.
This spring, Animas Consolidated Ditch plans to put in gates and help direct floodwaters to the Animas River, Zink said.
“We can utilize this ditch to help the whole community,” he said.