Snow melting, dams filling, floods feared in West

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS | June 2, 2011 | 3:58 PM EDT

GRAND COULEE DAM, Wash. (AP) — States across the West are bracing for major flooding in the coming weeks once a record mountain snowpack starts melting and sending water gushing into rivers, streams and low-lying communities. The catalyst will be warmer temperatures forecast for the next week that could set off a rapid thaw.

At Grand Coulee Dam, gigantic cascades of water are being released to make room for spring snowmelt that is expected to fill the reservoir. A constant roar emanates from the structure as surging water churns the Columbia River below the dam into a white froth.

Wyoming has deployed National Guard troops to help with flood preparations, and Utah has already had dozens of mudslides. Sacramento, with a population of about 470,000, is the major city at greatest risk of flooding in California.