OGDEN -- Snowpacks in the Wasatch Mountains are at near-record-high levels and there is real danger of flooding along the Weber and Logan rivers, but the National Weather Service says there won't be any flooding if the weather Sunday turns mild and drier.
Do not hold your breath hoping that happens.
Justin Dee, his family and their neighbors went to work Friday afternoon sandbagging his backyard against the rising water from the irrigation ditches. Small lakes that used to be pastures surround his Farr West home, now an island of dry ground.
"I could go canoeing in that," he joked, indicating the water behind his home. He hopes the wet weather does not damage his home.
The National Weather Service also says the weather in the Top of Utah is supposed to stay cold and rainy for the next week. A winter storm warning is in effect until Sunday morning, with snow accumulations of up to 2 feet expected in the mountains.
In another indication that the weather is really lousy, the Utah Avalanche Center is opening up again through the weekend.
Bruce Tremper, director of the center operated by the U.S. Forest Service, said the center shut down two weeks ago after its funding ran out. However, because there is so much new snow and avalanche danger, he found enough funds to open the center again.
"We're at, overall, condition danger level three," he said. "It's mostly at the upper elevations. All this new snow that we're getting has instabilities, with the new snow and the wind-driven snow."
The latest snow avalanche conditions can be found at the center's website, www.UtahAvalanche Center.org, or by calling 888-999-4019. The center's operations would not be affected by a federal government shutdown.
The current storm has dumped healthy amounts of new snow all over the Top of Utah. Snowbasin ski resort got 11 inches at midbowl as of Friday morning, and Powder Mountain reported 12.
Tremper said the snow is heavy and wet. Ben Lomond Peak registered 16 inches of new snow that contained more than 2 inches of water weight.
Brian McInerney, hydrologist with the National Weather Service, said Utah's snowpack was already at levels only seen a few times in recent decades, such as 1982, 1986 and 2006.
In a pair of reports looking at the snowpack and flood danger, McInerney said the Weber River near Oakley and Coalville, in Summit County, could see flooding that causes property damage.
The Logan and Blacksmith Fork rivers in Cache County also could flood because both the Weber and Bear river drainages are looking at snowpacks in excess of 150 percent of normal.
McInerney said a high flooding potential has been building up since Oct. 1, when the water year began. Between Oct. 1 and March 1, the Weber River drainage had 158 percent of normal precipitation, including high amounts of rain in the fall that soaked the ground so very little snowmelt will soak into the ground in the springtime.
Those high precipitation rates and wet soil mean that, between April 1 and July 1, huge volumes of water will come down. The Bear River drainage is expected to see 165 percent of normal runoff, while the Weber River will see 155 percent of normal.
The real question, McInerney said, is whether all that water will come down and flood areas, or whether it will stay in stream banks.
McInerney said it all depends on the weather.
Take the Weber River's watershed near Oakley and Coalville, he said.
The snowpack in those areas is near what it was in both 1982 and 1986. The river didn't flood in 1982, he said, but did flood in 1986. The difference was the weather.
What is more telling, he said, was 2010, a year when the snowpack was far below normal. That year, the weather stayed cold and wet through April and even May, not warming up until June 6, when it got very hot, very fast, and all the snow that was up there melted at once. Several homes in Oakley were flooded.
So, McInerney said, as of Friday, the chance of flooding is very high.
But, "if our spring weather started tomorrow to be nice and mild, with the absence of any heavy rainfall, our next forecast we'll do a week from now will see these numbers drop, and so on," he said.
"If we could have a mild spring with the absence of any heavy rain, we could get out of this flood scenario without a problem."