GUNNISON COUNTY, Colo. - An unusual, reoccurring ice jam is threatening the Gunnison River. It has already released several times since January 2, and may happen again. The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for the Upper Gunnison River Valley. That alert remains in effect until Tuesday evening.
Gunnison County Sheriff Rick Besecker told Denver7, that ice jams like this, on the larger rivers in the valley, are unusual for the middle of winter. "I have been living in the Gunnison Valley for 64 years, and I have never seen anything like this," Besecker said.
The source of this issue seems to be at the Almont Bridge. That's where the Taylor River meets the East River, to form the Gunnison. That is the spot where the ice is first getting stuck. It collects there, which slows the flow of the river, and causes more freezing. The Gunnison County Sheriffs Department says this happens every couple of days before the building pressure of the river breaks the jam.
Impressive video shot by Nick Mirolli at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, shows the Taylor River full of ice chunks just after a jam break on Tuesday. The ice is heading downstream towards Gunnison, where more ice jams are forming. Three Rivers Resort says that their cabins have not been affected by any of the minor flooding that has occurred so far.
The first jam break on January 2 did cause some flooding in the basement of one home along the river. The Gunnison rises 5 to 8 feet after a jam releases, according the Gunnison County EOC. They also say that there is an ice jam currently located between Way Camp and Garlic Mikes on the Gunnison River.
The County and the USGS are both investigation solutions to this issue, but it appears likely that this jamming will continue to occur. The river breaks the ice jam just before a more permanent freeze can occur. A complete thaw would also solve the problem, but the average high temperature for Gunnison County stays below freezing until March.