When the waters rise

Scott Schoenfeld discusses the state's plans to raise Stampede Dam as a flood-prevention measure.

Scott Schoenfeld discusses the state's plans to raise Stampede Dam as a flood-prevention measure.

As part of National Flood Awareness Week, the State of Nevada, City of Fallon and Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe came together to raise awareness about flood risks in the area and ensuring people are prepared.

Tuesday afternoon, community members gathered at the Fallon Convention Center and heard a series of presentations about the dangers of floods, how to prepare for them and keep property safe, and the environmental impacts of flooding.

One wing of the convention center had a series of booths giving out information about floods and flood awareness. The event had a series of simulations that demonstrated what happens during a flood, how pollutants could be washed into the water supply, and ways of preventing hazardous chemicals washing into the watershed.

One table was laced with colored powders representing fertilizer and chemicals like oil, cleaners or manufacturing waste. When it was sprayed down with a water bottle, representing rain, the powders dissolved and red and green water flowed down into the model’s river. The combination left the mock water supply a murky dark brown of visible pollution.

Among the presentations of the day, Scott Schoenfeld, from the Bureau of Reclamation, discussed the bureau’s plans to raise Stampede Dam an additional 11-and-a-half feet as well as other safety projects they could implement. He said this would act as a preventative measure against flooding.

This would be an addition to the bureau’s existing Washoe Project — according to the Bureau of Reclamation website, the project is designed to provide irrigation, flood protection, water supplies, wildlife benefits and recreational uses along the Truckee and Carson Rivers.

There was also a presentation from the National Weather Service about their expectations for the coming winter. Chris Smallcomb, from NWS, said the forecasts are open and anything could happen.

“We don’t really have any good, strong, meaty signals that tell us that it’s gonna be a particularly wet year, a particularly dry year,” he said.

According to NWS, the trend recently has been toward warmer winter conditions in the area. Smallcomb said he did not see a reason for this to change, and it was possible a heavy snowfall could be followed by warm temperatures and a quick melt that resulted in flooding.

He also said the ocean plays a big role in their predictions — El Niño and La Niña have a big impact on atmospheric conditions in inland areas. Recent models have shown a weak La Niña forming in the Pacific Ocean, meaning slightly cooler conditions in the tropics. While this does not mean much to the Fallon area specifically, floods have struck the area during similar conditions in the past.

“What the message is, this may be the fault to put a little extra attention toward what would you do if a flood hit,” Smallcomb said.

He also recommended people work out a flood plan for their home and that businesses have a meeting to make sure everyone knows the procedure. More information on flood awareness can be found at www.NevadaFloods.org.


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