While Douglas County was hit with epic flooding in the July 20 downpour over western Nevada, Carson City escaped with only minor problems.
But the story would have been much different 10 years earlier.
In the interim, former City Public Works Director Andy Burnham said a huge amount of work was done to prevent flooding in the capital. And much of it happened in conjunction with the work on the Carson Bypass freeway.
“When the freeway got built through town, a significant amount of storm water work was done,” he said.
Burnham said the state spends an estimated $15 million and the city $5 million on water work along that corridor.
Much of that work, including huge concrete drainage structures, is now underground and invisible. Those culverts run south from Highway 50 almost to 5th Street then east to the Carson River.
In addition, Highway 50 was modified significantly where the freeway crosses it. The combination eliminated flooding that occurred regularly in front of the old Scolari’s Market east of Saliman.
“They essentially built the backbone,” said city Storm Water Manager Rob Fellows referring to NDOT. “Ever since, we’ve been kind of expanding on that backbone.”
Extensive drainage work was also done along the freeway route south of Fairview, so much so NDOT Engineer Stephen Lani described that section of the freeway as “a lot of water work with a little road on top.”
That work starts at the base of Voltaire Canyon, goes under Carson Street and into a 37 million gallon detention basin carved out east of the street. In the past, heavy rain flushing water and debris down the canyon often forced closure of Carson Street.
From the basin, culverts were built to carry the water north and east to Fairview and into the city’s drainage system and the Carson River.
“The freeway really kicked things off,” said Fellows.
He said the other keys that drove improvements were the 2004 fire on the west side and the flooding the following year.
“We ended up working with FEMA and spending about $2 million around the city,” he said.
He and Burnham said the city is beginning a program to fix water runoff problems in other areas over the next five years including the old part of downtown and the old west side where storms can cause major water flows down the five canyons that reach the city.
South of Fairview, Fellows said, also needs some work as does the area around the Carson Mall.
“There are little projects all over town,” said Burnham.
NDOT is now finished with its water projects and preparing this winter to seek bids on the final stretch of pavement that will complete the bypass to Carson Street at Spooner Junction.
In July, Douglas residents just south of the Carson City border were hit with 1.21 inches of rain in just 80 minutes. Dozens of homeowners saw their landscaping destroyed and garages layers in mud by rushing waters. Officials there are calling it a 100-year flood.
A large amount of water also fell on south and west side Carson City but the damage was minimal.
As if to emphasize the Douglas flooding isn’t a unique occurrence, a flash flood filled Buckeye Creek in Douglas Wednesday night, knocking down power lines and leaving City of Refuge residents without power for 14 hours.
No one was hurt by the flooding but nine homes were damaged.