WILL SNOW MELT = MORE FLOODS?
Verde Valley river expert John Parsons says ‘probably not’
Heavy snow on Thursday and Friday resulted in closures and power outages throughout the Verde Valley.
School districts through the Verde Valley had their first snow days of the year Thursday and Friday.
Likewise Cottonwood and Clarkdale administrative offices were closed and Cottonwood Area Transit services were canceled.
Power outages in Clarkdale and Cottonwood left more than 3,000 customers without power Friday morning according to Arizona Public Service.
Major highways such as State Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff, and Interstate 17 northbound from SR 179 were also temporarily closed.
They were reopened Friday afternoon.
The National Weather Service Friday provided these recent snow inch reports:
• Cottonwood – 5 inches
• Sedona – 8-13 inches
• Clarkdale – 9 inches
• Lake Montezuma – 3.5 inches
• Camp Verde – 2 inches
While this amount of snow is rare in the region, it’s not unheard of. According to Verde Independent historical files, in December 1967, some residents woke up to the biggest snowstorm in Arizona history.
Jerome received 41 inches officially with five-foot drifts everywhere. Many were double that height. Sedona that year had a snow depth of 23.8 inches.
February was a month of intense flooding along the Verde River, Oak Creek and Beaver Creek in addition to the heavy snowfall that blanketed the Verde Valley Thursday and Friday.
The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center reported peak flows on the Verde River in Camp Verde last week rose to more than 50,000 cubic feet per second.
Last week’s flooding on the Verde River in Clarkdale knocked out part of a 105-year-old dam. Flood waters also destroyed a pond levee that helped divert water to Pecks Lake, according to Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig.
So the question is: Should we expect more floods?
Local river expert John Parsons (aka Mr. Verde River) said because there is no “rain-on-snow” forecast this week, additional flooding isn’t likely. Parsons has been studying flows of the Verde River and its tributaries for 38 years.
“Next week’s high temperatures in the 50s and possibly 60s will bring down the low elevation snow and at least some of the mid-elevation snow,” he stated in a public Facebook post. “Freezing overnight low temperatures will keep the high-elevation snow intact.”
Parsons said the river water levels and its tributaries depend on the rate of melt of the low- and mid-elevation snow.
“Odds are pretty good that the snow will come off in an orderly, polite and civil manner with no problems,” he said.
However, there are some historical precedents that say otherwise, according to Parsons.
“If it comes off faster than expected, high water is likely,” he said. “Will that high water translate to flood levels? Probably not.”