Friday, May 26, 2006

Big Wood dips below flood stage

Authorities caution flood threat will last a few weeks longer

Express Staff Writer

Idaho Transportation Department workers Glenn Moore, left, and Rick Prophet oversee debris removal from the Big Wood River at the Idaho Highway 75 bridge near St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Big Wood River dropped below flood stage Thursday, but a flood warning remained in affect for Blaine County as if to remind authorities and residents that the threat of flooding isn't over yet.

"People better keep their sandbags and barriers in place for at least another two or three weeks," said Blaine County Disaster Services coordinator Chuck Turner. "There's still a lot of snow up there in the mountains."

Readings from Snotel, an online snow and moisture report maintained by the National Resource Conservation Service, show that 30-50 percent of the year's snowpack remains in the mountains of the Big Wood Basin.

"We don't want to become complacent, because if we get three or four days of warm weather like we had last week we could have the same situation all over again," Turner said.

Cooler weather the past few days helped drop water levels on the Big Wood River. A water level of 5.68 feet was recorded Thursday afternoon at the Bullion Street Bridge in Hailey. Anything over six feet is considered flood stage. The river reached a high water level of 7.9 feet on Sunday.

The National Weather Service has predicted cooler weather through the Memorial Day Weekend. Temperatures today through Monday in the Wood River Valley are expected in the high 50s and low 60s.

NWS lifted flood warnings farther south in Gooding and Lincoln counties as water levels dropped in the Big Wood River below Magic Reservoir.

Meanwhile, local authorities have raised concerns about possible water contamination.

The City of Ketchum recommended that owners of private wells have their water tested.

Turner said he's not aware of any tests conducted on Big Wood River water but he suspects there's at least minor contamination in the river as septic tanks in some areas may have been flooded.

"The chances of it exchanging liquids in and out are pretty great," Turner said. "I wouldn't suggest being in that water any longer than you have to, because who knows." he said.

No flood damage estimates were yet available, but authorities expect extensive damage to roads in areas that were underwater for several days.

In Hailey, Arrow R. Storage is offering free storage of goods through June to residents of areas effected by flooding. An email from the company specifically mentions War Eagle, Della Vista and Triumph drives in Hailey and lists a telephone number of 578-1545.

North of Hailey, Turner said repair work has been carried out successfully at Deer Creek Bridge, which was threatened on Tuesday as raging water ate into the embankment and washed away part of the approach.

Turner said county officials will continue to monitor and keep a close watch on the river.

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