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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Spring snow dusts a hillside next to East Canyon Reservoir on Wednesday, May 17, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — It happened last week to Deer Creek and Causey and will likely happen at East Canyon sometime this week.

Northern Utah reservoirs that for five years struggled to fill are now emptying water through spillways, structures specifically built to control the safe release of floodwaters downstream.

"It's something people aren't used to because of the drought conditions we've been in," said Marlon Duke, spokesman for the Utah Bureau of Reclamation.

"People are going to be seeing a lot of water over the next month or so."

Duke said the spillway release of extra water is what the dam infrastructure is designed to do.

"It isn't anything anybody should be concerned about," he said. "We inspect them all the time and are confident they are capable of handling the water coming down."

At East Canyon, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has been managing that reservoir to take on extra water.

"We've kept it down on purpose to handle the last of the snowpack. It acts as a shock absorber," said the district's general manager, Tage Flint.

As it reaches capacity and begins to spill, Flint said there will be more room in the system to handle the coming snowmelt.

Weber Basin Water Conservancy District | Aaron Thorup, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District

The same scenario is playing out at Deer Creek, but water watchers there are nervously keeping an eye on the bulging Provo River, which is at flood stage.

Brian McInerney, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, said the flood warning in effect for Provo River downstream from Deer Creek will likely remain for the next two weeks.

He said people, their children and pets should stay away from the river because of the threats it poses.

"We really need people to be aware of the danger."

The midweek snowstorm and temperatures that dipped sharply — hitting freezing in some areas — temporarily halted the snowmelt and gave rivers and streams a reprieve from additional water.

"This last week of cold weather really helped us out," Duke said.

While it would spoil the hopes of those wishing for warmth and sunshine, the experts say another cold spell in the coming week would be helpful in terms of flood control.

Randy Julander, Utah Snow Survey supervisor with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, said another bout of cold would apply the brakes once again to high elevation snowpack melting into streams.

"If we have another one in a week, we'll be barely out of the woods," he said.

Flint added the worst scenario is northern Utah gets hit with repeated rain.

"We need low to moderate temperatures."

McInerney said the hot spot for flooding is along the Logan River, where communities are sandbagging to prepare.

As conditions change, McInerney posts YouTube briefings to keep the public informed of the risks.

The Bear River along the communities of Amalga and Newton could also pose problems, depending on how much Bear Lake continues to rise.

Along the Wasatch Front and in the Bear River Basin, snowpack remains high.

The Bear River Basin still sits a 155 percent of average, the Ogden-Weber River Basin is at 137 percent of average and Provo-Utah Lake-Jordan Basin is at 128 percent.

McInerney said what is helpful this year in terms of flooding is that the lower and mid-level elevation snow is gone.

In 1983, when floodwaters raced down State Street, the Great Salt Lake flooded and widespread damage occurred throughout much of the state, McInerney said all the snowpack came down at once.

"We had cold, wet weather until May 20 and then it hit temperatures 20 degrees above average, staying that way for roughly a week," he recalled.

City Creek, which normally flowed at 35 cubic feet per second ballooned to 330 cubic feet per second, overrunning downtown Salt Lake City.

But this year, for the most part, the weather has been mostly temperate and the water year is what Julander and others have been dreaming about.

"Yes, I have to say I wrote the script for the weather, and it followed along nicely," Julander said.