Snowmelt prompts water release; 5,000 CFS coming from Granite Reef Dam into Salt River

MESA, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- If you drive anywhere around the Salt River, you've probably noticed there is actually water flowing through the riverbed in some areas or more water than usual is present.

Salt River Project increased its release from Granite Reef Dam to 5,000 cubic feet per second over the weekend.

A lot of folks like to flock to the river and take pictures, but here's a warning: don't try to drive through these areas. You could wind up in a soggy mess.

"Read the sign.. do not cross when flooded. I think they missed that one," said Michael Schaffner, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service's Phoenix office. "I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't attempt it. There's barricades. You can clearly see water flowing across the street."

Tempe Fire Department, Salt River Fire, and Mesa crews rescued a driver around 10:30 Sunday morning. They walked him from his minivan to safety.

This is a reminder of the problems a normally dry Salt River bed can pose when it starts to run.

"The main impact are low level crossings, roads that go through the rivers and creeks. It's not high enough to impact any homes or any structures.. in many respects, it is a good scenario," said Schaffner.

Last year was the driest runoff season in 120 years of record keeping, according to SRP. This year's record snowfall in the high country has changed that and this release helps them get ready for higher temperatures, faster snowmelt, and runoff.

For some Valley dwellers, it's a chance to bring their dogs to play in the river that's suddenly running over McKellips Road.

"They love playing ball and Frisbee and coming out here and going for a little swim," said Janessa Wybron.

How long will McKellips Road stay closed at the river bottom and how long will the Salt River be flowing through the Valley? It's tough to say. Another storm is expected later in the week.

>>VIDEO: SkyFOX was over the scene on where a minivan was stuck in the floodwaters.