Complications arise in the West as early heat wave causes snowpack to melt rapidly

The National Weather Service has advised against swimming in some rivers.

May 16, 2023, 2:46 PM

The early season heat wave in the West is causing complications up and down the coast.

The Pacific Northwest is in the midst of a record-breaking streak of high temperatures for this time of year, with Portland seeing multiple days of 90-degree temps.

Roads closed due to flooding from rapidly melting snow, May 14, 2023, in the Cache National Forest, Utah.
Courtesy Michael Gilchrist

More record highs are possible Tuesday in Portland, Spokane, Washington, and Boise, Idaho. The high temperatures have arrived more than a month ahead of usual.

The scorching temperatures have continued further south and east as well. In California, triple-digit temperatures are forecast in some cities. Palms Springs is forecast to hit 103 degrees on Tuesday.

The rapid melting is causing some complications, with rushing water from mountain ranges such as the Sierra Nevadas, the Colorado Rockies and the Cascades posing danger for flooding, mudslides and landslides.

The Merced River surges as warm temperatures melt snowpack, April 29, 2023, near Yosemite National Park, Calif.
Mario Tama/Getty Images, FILE

In Huntsville, Utah, some people had to evacuate their homes on Sunday due to flooding of the Ogden River.

A portion of State Road 504 in Cowlitz County, Washington, was completely destroyed by a fast-moving mudslide off the Cascade Mountains.

Campgrounds at Yosemite National Park were closed starting on Monday over flooding threats as the snow continues to melt at a fast pace.

A park ranger speaks to a driver at a checkpoint for a road closed due to flooding in Yosemite Valley, as warming temperatures have increased snowpack runoff, April 29, 2023, in Yosemite National Park, Calif.
Mario Tama/Getty Images, FILE

Heavy water flows from the Sierra Nevadas could be seen rushing into the park. The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch in the region until Friday.

Yosemite was forced to close in February after more than 15 feet of snow fell during a blizzard. Olympia, Washington, hit a record 92 degrees on Monday, surpassing the previous record of 85 degrees set in 1958.

Last month, storm runoff caused flooding of several agricultural fields in the San Joaquin Valley due to an overflowing Lake Tulare Basin.

In an aerial view, a vehicle drives through floodwaters in the reemerging Tulare Lake, April 27, 2023, near Corcoran, Calif.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

But the major melt of the massive snowpack has yet to occur, according to the California Department of Resources.

The flooding is expected to be so severe that the National Weather Service has advised people in the region to avoid swimming in river water this summer, especially in the San Joaquin and Merced rivers.

Related Topics