Before he became Yerington’s major six years ago, John Garry had to place sandbags around his house for the 2017 flood, and it was difficult.
Now he’s overseeing a city in a high-water year, and time has kept on going.
“I hate to admit, I’ve gotten older in life,” he said. “At 71 years of age I’m building sandbags and putting them around my house, and I have the virtue of owning my home. Certainly we have been told different periods, June 1 through 19 was supposed to be one of those high water marks, and we got through that. The (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers came in, and we heard everything we were doing was correct.”
Garry said he prefers the term “seeping” as opposed to flooding for the flows that challenged his city’s streets and structures at atypical levels in May.
“We had seepage through the fields, and that’s where you can see water collecting,” Garry said.
Lyon County officials state crews have worked “around the clock” and on weekends to assist Yerington’s residents and businesses to help clear their paths of large trees from the bridges or if sections of levees begin to erode, county communications and emergency manager Taylor Allison told the Appeal. Large materials such as riprap have been supplied along with crews, which have included 10-wheeler drivers and about 300 trucks a day, an excavator/loader and two operators a day were working on a loop, she said, to make sure locals were having water cleared for access. Walker River Irrigation District staff members, Lyon County and Peri and Sons all contributed, she said.
Flooding impacted residents such as Jim Snyder’s farm, which became subirrigated and “soggy,” Snyder told the Appeal. But any effects were considered minor to his business, he described.
“It’s relatively small acreage, and we had relatively little impact compared to what it could have been, and from my perspective, between Walker River Irrigation District and the county and Peri and Sons Farms, there were tremendous efforts that saved us, and the city, really,” Snyder said.
Snyder, who owns about 250 acres near town that could have been impacted more severely and has another 1,000 acres south of town, said some of his crops were impaired and his low-lying pastures were inundated with water. His farms grow onions, carrots, garlic, alfalfa and small grains.
“There was some loss,” he said.
But he said any challenges facing his business now are “nothing to speak of that are flood-related — swatting mosquitoes, markets and weather-related,” he said.
Bert Bryan, WRID general manager, said the county has experienced a record-breaking year this season, describing this as being among the two highest water years on record in his tenure. With Mason Valley’s previous flow of 2,910 cubic feet per second (CFS) in 2017, Bryan said this season, the area ran more than a month above that level at 2,910 CFS.
“We actually kept just shy above that, so we were pretty close, and 3,830 CFS was the highest peak flows we saw a few weeks back,” Bryan told the Appeal on Monday.
He described a “wild card” to occur with this year’s spring flooding — a slower thaw.
“We took a really long time to start to warm up,” he said. “Obviously, it’s warm right now, but there were a lot of cloud covers during June, so we were actually below normal average temperatures for that time. It aided the challenges that were already set forth, so there was a lot of back and forth in the river forecast center and the weather service when a peak would come and it was hard to nail into a day and lot of peaks and valleys.”
While much of the flooding began as early as March, the city was affected more in May when the Lyon County Commission held an emergency meeting on May 20 to direct County Manager Andrew Haskin on taking protective measures to reinforce the banks of the Walker River on residents’ private property.
Garry said he looked forward to looking at this year’s flood in the “rearview mirror.” He thanked the efforts of David Peri of Peri and Sons as well as Yerington Police Chief Darren Wagner for removing his own uniform and operating a bulldozer when it was needed.
“I’m kind of a newbie to the community,” Garry said. “I’ve only been here since 2015 … But I know the January 1997 floods really tore through the area, and people still talk about it, and I know that people really do take preparations here seriously. The local businesses put the plastic signing up, the sandbags — many people have those around their homes.
“Our own Yerington airport — we did have flooding out there, and it never got to a point where it affected airport operations, but one of the scenarios we were looking at had our sewer ports overflowing, and that could have been devastating,” Garry said.
Garry added he plans to recognize those whose work was instrumental in helping Yerington this season.
“I’m a firm believer we should show our gratitude,” he said.