Area looks at preparedness during Nevada Flood Awareness Week |

Area looks at preparedness during Nevada Flood Awareness Week

John Cobourn and Steve Endacott
Special to the LVN

Any major spring runoff on the Carson River could trigger a potential repeat of 2005, when some minor flooding occurred on the Lyon County side of Lahontan Reservoir.

Nevada Flood Awareness Week's purpose through Saturday is to help Nevadans prepare their home, family, businesses and pets for flood disasters.

With a record breaking El Nino currently sitting just off the southwest coast, this hazard is actually very real for Nevada residents, especially in areas near mountains and rivers.

Flood Awareness Week is in early November for a reason. Nevada has its biggest river floods in the winter. When a weather pattern known as a "Pineapple Express" or "Atmospheric River" occurs during the winter months, a series of strong storms move across the Pacific from the region of Hawaii to California and Nevada. When these storms reach the snowy Sierra, they can bring heavy rainstorms as high 10,000 feet elevation. When this happens, the rain melts much of the snow, and the rivers draining the mountains can rise to flood stage. The National Weather Service in Reno claims a large "Pineapple Express" storm can occur during any winter regardless of the presence of a drought or an "El Nino."

The Truckee, Carson and Walker Rivers have had 15 winter floods in the past 150 years, or about one every 10 years. The largest river floods since 1950 occurred in 1950, 1955, 1963, 1986 and 1997. During the most recent flood, some Reno casinos near the Truckee River had 5 feet of water on the first floor. The total estimated cost of flood damages in Washoe County was in excess of $686 million. Carson City, Lyon and Douglas counties sustained damages estimated at close to $30 million. Much of the Carson Valley looked like a lake and some commercial airliners parked at Reno Tahoe International Airport had water up to their engines.

In Churchill County, the Carson River runs through and near the city of Fallon. Although the Lahontan Dam is upstream and the lake is near empty, the same conditions existed 1997 and some residential areas were flooded. People living in the area then will remember that the empty lake filled up in a matter of days. Flashboards (plywood boards) were installed at the top of the dam to prevent waves from crashing over the top of the dam, and yet the lake level rose to the top of those flashboards.

During a flood emergency such as this, a coalition of elected officials, emergency managers, the Truckee Carson Irrigation District (TCID) and the Federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) coordinate closely to prevent or minimize flood damage to the public. Flood mitigation steps include initiating precautionary water releases, distributing sand bags, preparing for evacuation and preforming other emergency measures.

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The above measures notwithstanding, Churchill County and allon still have areas that are designated by the Federal Government as 100-year Flood Zones. This means that federally backed loans (such as most mortgages) will not be issued to properties located in these zones without the owner first attaining and sustaining flood insurance.

For detailed information on flooding in a specific area, visit Nevada's website, There people can verify if their home or workplace is at risk from flooding; they can learn how to prepare for flood hazards; they can explore the possibility of buying flood insurance; and they can link to sites with everything from Nevada flood history to emergency preparedness information. Don't wait till flooding is imminent.