Steve Ranson

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July 22, 2014
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Fallon area escapes Mother Nature's fury

While late July thunderstorms slammed western Nevada and several people sighted funnel clouds on Monday afternoon west of Fernley, Fallon escaped much of the heavy rain, strong winds and rivers of mud that pounded the region over the weekend.

“We had no real problems with the storms,” said Fallon Police Department Capt. Vern Ulrich. “I know we didn’t get that much rain.”

The Fallon/Churchill Fire Department reports it did not have any calls for lightning-related brush fires.

The first tornado warning in six years caused a stir in western Nevada, however.

The National Weather Service in Reno issued the tornado warning when several funnel clouds were spotted near Patrick on Interstate 80. The storm was moving north-northeast toward Pyramid Lake and the community of Nixon, located southeast of the lake near the Truckee River. Several residents in the Fernley area also reported a funnel cloud.

Meterologist Wendell Holmann in Reno said the funnel cloud is not treated as a tornado, however, because there is no proof it touched the ground.

“Once it makes contact, then it’s a tornado,” Hohmann clarified.

The last tornado warning occurred six years ago when a strong storm moved through the Silver Springs and Lake Lahontan Area toward Fallon, coincidentally on the same day of July 21, 2008. At the time several residents reported seeing funnel clouds, but Hohmann said a trained weather spotter saw the funnel actually touch down.

“It occurred south-southwest of Fallon and was 200 yards wide and classified as an EF-0 and 3.5 miles long,” Hohmann said. “It caused some crop damage.”

The worst day of the latest story activity occurred on Sunday. According to the National Weather Service, Fallon received .16 of an inch of rain Sunday with most of that coming during the late afternoon. Fernley, though, reported .75 of an inch of rain.

Blowing dust, though, affected the area by covering a wide swath from north of Fallon to Interstate 80 at Trinity. The Nevada Highway Patrol also reported blowing sand and dust from Fernley to Lovelock. At times, visibility was reduced to zero. The NHP said the highway was not closed and no other major incidences were reported in the Churchill County area.

Thunderstorms developed over the Lahontan Valley on Monday but left no precipitation nor caused any damage. Hohmann, though, said the NWS predicted isolated thunderstorms for western Nevada to extend into Reno and toward Gerlach in northern Washoe County. He said the storms were expected to affect the Pinenut and Virginia ranges east of the Reno-Sparks area but west of Fernley.

With the storm activity clearing out of the region, Hohmann said temperatures will begin to heat up gradually.

“Fallon will see 100 degrees on Saturday and above that for a while,” he said.

Public works crews and firefighters were busier in the Carson City-Minden-Lake Tahoe areas.

Carson City Manager Nick Marano says the city itself escaped major damage from heavy rains Sunday but that numerous residents — especially those along the capital’s southern boundary — suffered serious damage to their landscaping.

He said that, if that storm had centered over the city, damage could have been much more extensive.

Public Works Manager Darren Schulz said the epicenter of the downpour was near Rabe Way and Center Drive. He said in that area, more than three feet of sediment and debris was left on some streets. The city, he said, didn’t suffer major infrastructure damage, that the roads and streets may be covered with mud but remain intact.

But he said other than landscaping, homes in the area escaped flooding inside.

He said there also was some minor damage on the west side and the southwest side of Clearview, which had some rocks and sediment, washed into yards and streets.

“Because the rain was so intense over a period of time, nothing’s going to hold as far as ground cover,” Schulz said.

He said his crews were out in the area around Center Sunday afternoon through Monday loading the debris and sediment into trucks and hauling it away.

Fire Chief Stacey Giomi said while his people helped public works where they could, Sunday was “relatively quiet for us.”

NV Energy spokesman Karl Walquist said Carson City fared better than other parts of western Nevada. The biggest outage in the capital, he said, was 28 customers along Fall Street who were out from 2:30 p.m. until about 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Douglas County and the Tahoe Basin had much more extensive outages.

In the central and western Carson Valley, he said 6,800 customers were without power along with 9,800 on the east side of the valley. Power was restored in by 2:35 a.m.

At Tahoe, Walquist said 5,300 customers from Glenbrook south to Stateline were without power until about 10 p.m. The flooding also was worse in the Carson Valley.

Douglas County workers spent Monday clearing culverts and roads from Sunday’s heavy rain and flooding.

“Public Works is concentrating on the significant drainage structures that were damaged or need reinforcement,” Douglas County Emergency Manager Tod Carlini said Monday morning. “They are taking care of those areas and then working backwards to those at a lower priority.”

Carlini, who is also East Fork Fire & Paramedic Districts Chief, said county emergency dispatchers handled 189 calls between 2:30 and 6 p.m. Sunday.

“In some way, shape or form, whether the fire district, or the sheriff’s office, or search and rescue, resources were sent out to deal with the calls.”

No one was injured in the flooding, and no homes were lost, though property in Indian Hills, Johnson Lane and Fish Springs suffered flood damage.

“There was some sheet flooding in some areas that came across people’s property,” he said. “That’s where we’ll see the most significant private property damage.”

Carlini said four structures were hit by lightning on Sunday, including one at Jobs Peak Ranch that started a small fire. That fire was extinguished by Sheridan Acres firefighters.

The Nevada Appeal and The Record-Courier contributed to this report.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jul 22, 2014 05:55PM Published Jul 22, 2014 05:55PM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.