‘Amazing:’ flash flood hits Douglas
August 7, 2014
There were no reports of injuries as a result of a flash flood that filled Pine Nut Creek late Wednesday night.
It was 14 hours before electricity was restored to City of Refuge after the flood washed away a power pole at around 10 p.m.
Operator and resident Dave Gamble said the flooding took out the property's orchards and roads.
"It was the most amazing flash flood I've ever seen," he said. "Not a drop of water fell at the house. I saw the storm come across the Valley, and then I heard what I thought was the wind blowing. I looked outside and the trees weren't moving. Then I realized it was water roaring through the canyon."
Gamble said the residents are safe and that flooding didn't damage the house or most of the outbuildings.
"I couldn't get to the tractor because water was flowing between the house and the barn," he said. "The water missed the barn by an inch and a half. Otherwise it stayed channeled."
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Fire Marshal Steve Eisele told Douglas County commissioners nine houses received interior damage in the flood.
"There was two feet of water over Fish Springs Road," he said. Emergency officials with the Nevada Department of Forestry conducted a fly over of the Fish Springs area to assess the damage.
NV Energy reported power was out to 18 customers and wasn't restored to all residents until 12:10 p.m. Thursday.
Gardnerville Town Board Chairwoman Linda Slater was on Toler Avenue checking the damage on Thursday morning.
A mattress plugged up the culvert east of Orchard Road sending water across the road and into a nearby ranch.
Slater's husband, former Town Board member Randy Slater, credited the Allerman Canal with protecting Gardnerville in the flood.
The canal runs along the eastern edge of town and intercepted floodwaters.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning on Wednesday night after radar indicated a thunderstorm was dropping rain at 9 p.m. at an inch over 45 minutes.
A lightning strike that set a single tree on fire brought East Fork firefighters into Fish Springs in time to see Pine Nut Creek fill up.
They mustered emergency resources to help residents who were trapped by high water and warn motorists away from debris-filled roads.
Roads were still closed on Thursday morning as crews worked to clear the mud off.
Concerns about the response from the county road department on Wednesday night were cleared up on Thursday.
East Fork Capt. Terry Taylor said there were more than two employees available, but safety concerns prevailed.
"Due to the changing circumstances and the danger to employees operating equipment in the dark, the initial request was focused on placing warnings for motorists throughout the effected area," he said. "Additional employees arrived later in the morning and they are out actively working."
Reverse 911, which has been used in previous incidents, was not working on Wednesday. A National Weather Service employee offered to use the emergency alert system to notify residents of the flooding danger.
"We are concerned that a system such as reverse 911 is currently down," said 911 Manager Ron Sagen. "I have a tentative Aug. 15 in-service date."
Sagen said the emergency alert system could have been activated to alert residents there were evacuations.
"Residents can sign up in the interim on the National Weather Service Website." Sagen said.
As it was, Fish Springs Road quickly became impassible. Emergency crews told residents to shelter in place unless they could reach high ground without using the road.
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini said the flooding at night posed a dangerous situation for rescuers and residents.
"The only thing worse than a flash flood, is a flash flood at night," Carlini said. "Our primary concern was for the safety of area residents and our responders and being able to access properties for emergency response. Flash flooding of any type is serious and dangerous, and one occurring at night is wrought with additional hazards to the public and responders alike."
Mel Road and Jo Lane will be closed until further notice during the cleanup efforts.
Areas affected include Sierra Spirit Ranch, Blue Sage Road, Jacobson Road, Fish Springs Road, Sanchez Lane,
"We are estimating nine residents have interior damage and multiple residences were flooded, yards and landscapes were damaged, along with structures and outbuildings," Carlini said.
East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts, Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Douglas County Road Department, and Douglas County Search and Rescue are out assisting residents, as necessary, conducting damage assessment, and conducting debris removal from public roadways.
Because Fish Springs residents are served by individual wells, county officials ask anyone who believes their well might be contaminated contact the Nevada Health Department Laboratories at 1660 North Virginia St., Reno, or call (775) 688-1335.
Anyone with sewer contamination or septic system exposure should contact the Douglas County Building Department, Valerie Nunes at (775) 782-6222.