Hydrologists warn of fast-moving water with rising temperatures

Posted at 4:57 PM, May 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-13 18:57:49-04

SALT LAKE CITY - With the warm temperatures of the summer season comes runoff season, and officials want to remind everyone of the dangers posed by the melting snowpack that is filling the state's rivers and streams.

"What we're doing is melting this snowpack off at a pretty good rate of 1.5 to 2 inches per day. It's not going to flood anything, but it's going to become very dangerous," said Brian McInerney, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service.

In past years, rising water levels have resulted in flooding, but this season there is greater concern for how the runoff will affect the water's temperature and current.

"In 2011, we had eight people drown in the rivers and streams when we had big runoff," McInerney said. "This is going to be a smaller runoff year, but nonetheless, these streams are really dangerous."

Last year, a 4-year-old boy was swept down the Weber River and drowned. Officers in the Unified Police Department are hoping to prevent something similar from happening again.

"Every year, we generally have at least one person that would get too close to the water and fall in, and it makes it very difficult for rescuers because that water is so fast. It'll sweep somebody's feet out from under them and take them down river very quickly," said Lt. Justin Hoyal.

While there is concern over the excess water flow, McInerney is also worried about what could happen if there's not enough. According to him, 2012 brought little runoff into the state's reservoirs.

"We're in the second year of dry conditions after that really bountiful 2011. Conservation is always a good idea, but if you're a dry farmer, you're definitely going to feel it. And if you have lower water rights, that's a problem for the agricultural people," he said.

McInerney said the best case scenario for the state's water supply is to get lots of rain and to have the snowpack melt all at once.

"We want to bring this off as quick as possible and as big as possible. That's what we want," he said.

In order to accomplish that, McInerney believes the weather would need to maintain hotter than usual temperatures for several days.