Even before the snow started falling Saturday evening, winds gusting up to 70 mph scoured Carson City, knocking down power lines, tearing the roof off an apartment building and destroying the C Hill flag.
The Carson City team of the American Red Cross was standing by to open an emergency shelter for people without power. They were ready to act by 7 p.m. -- the same time snow started falling on Carson City. Residents evacuated the Cherry Creek Apartments at 3179 South Carson Street behind the Out Of Bounds Board Shop after much of the roof was blown off.
The National Weather Service in Reno reported winds gusting up to 134 mph above 10,000 feet along the Sierra Crest.
By 5 p.m. Saturday, the C Hill flag was almost totally shredded.
"The flag is gone," said Gilbert Ayarbe, a co-creator of the flag. "I don't think there's anything we can do for the flag now."
He said there are already plans in the works to create a new one if needed.
Josh Buscay, who has also been involved in the flag since the beginning, went up the hill to see if what he could do to secure it.
"We removed the stripes that were torn up and secured the ones that weren't as best we could," Buscay said.
He went up with his brothers Adam and Jeremy, friends Robert Achen and Pascal Carpiaux and girlfriend Brittany McClelland.
Buscay said the winds were so strong it made walking difficult and they were actually knocked down during the rescue effort.
"I don't know if this one is salvageable but if it's not, we're going to put up a better one," Buscay said.
Tod Jennings also went up C Hill to check on the flag Saturday.
"My son and I were driving over to the train museum and we looked up there and said, 'That doesn't look good.'"
He said the wind had blown off several stripes and part of the blue field and stars.
"The wind was so bad," he said, "that I said to my son, 'Let me carry you so the wind doesn't carry you off.'"
Meanwhile at the Train Museum where the free Santa Train rides were offered, a woman received a head injury after a tent blew over and struck her.
Jennings warned Buscay and Carpiaux before they went up C Hill that if they were holding pieces of the flag fabric when the wind gusted, they should let go so they're not blown off the hill.
The flag is property of the C Hill Foundation.
Dan Mooney, president of the foundation, plans to call a meeting as soon as possible to make the decision about what needs to be done. Part of the problem, he says, is that the current 14 milimeter-thick flag material hasn't held up so they'll likely have to use a more expensive 18 milimeter-thick version. The material for the original C Hill flag cost about $3,000.
Mooney hopes the insurance on the 120-by-67-foot flag, which was renewed just two weeks ago, will cover the damage.
Saturday's storm also caused widespread power outages. Power was out in East Carson near the Empire Ranch Golf Course where a power pole tipped halfway over on Stanton Drive.
On the west side of Carson City, power was out in the C Hill area and power lines were reportedly arching -- flashing purple light on the descending clouds as darkness fell. Power was also out for most of Dayton starting at about 1 p.m., and in Minden and the Gardnerville Ranchos.
Firefighters in Storey County, where all power went out at noon, had responded to 22 different calls by 9 p.m. Saturday, from down lines and limbs to getting batteries to elderly folks.
Storey deputies moved their dispatch center down to the fire station after the power was cut, because the backup generator failed as well. Virginia City recently missed getting a federal grant to have the generator replaced.
"We sure could have used that today," said County Duty Chief Joe Curtis.
Chains or snow tires were required three miles up Highway 50 west where spun-out cars lined the road, on Kingsbury Grade, Interstate 80 West of Reno, Highway 50 from Meyers to Twin Bridges and on State Route 431 up Mount Rose. There was a wind advisory prohibiting campers and trailers through Washoe Valley.
In other storm-related events, a Mor Furniture For Less truck was reported blown off Mottsville Road in Gardnerville, a car hit the guard rail on Spooner Summit and a squatter's fire got out of control in the wind behind the Carson City dump on Flint Drive. No one was reported hurt in any of those incidents.
Today a break is expected in the turbulent weather, but a new wave of weather is forecast for Monday.
"It could get real windy again on Monday ahead of the next round of precipitation which will come in later in the day," said Larry Brown, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.
About 8-10 inches of snow were expected at the level of Lake Tahoe this morning by 9 a.m., according to Brown.
"Above 7,500 feet there could be a foot or two," he said.
"There'll be very little, if any, snow on the valley floor," he said. "It's very hard to pin point it."
The weather expected to come in Monday should be equal to, and possibly more intense than, what hit the area on Saturday.
For highway conditions, call (877) 687-6237
or go online at: www.nvroads.com
or, on the radio, in Carson City tune into to 1610 am or in Reno or Lake Tahoe, tune in to 530 am.
Nation Weather Service on the net: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/Reno/