Spring runoff predictions change daily
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Even with May daytime temperatures alternating between the 90s and 70s, the National Weather Service says water managers throughout the region have been able to control water flow in the major rivers.
“The warm spell and cool off have been a good thing,” said Scott McGuire, a meteorologist with the weather service. “So far there have not been too many impacts with the snowpack.”
Last week, the flow in the Carson River was reduced to give residents in the river corridor relief.
“Keep in mind the flows may have to be increased as we continue through this event, which is expected to last through the summer,” said Churchill County Incident Commander Bill Lawry.
McGuire said the west and east forks of the Carson River have had minor flooding, but from Carson City through Fallon, McGuire said the weather service is not expecting any major flooding. In fact, he said a flood advisory that had been issued this month and was expected to extend through the summer was lifted Friday.
He said efforts from emergency management teams, the Nevada Department of Transportation, Bureau of Reclamation and Truckee Carson Irrigation District have been proactive and are working “magnificently.”
Nevertheless, Lawry said in a press release that the Bureau of Reclamation, which maintains ownership of the Lahontan Dam, related irrigation infrastructures such as the canals and TCID are monitoring river flows and runoff projections.
“Even with the weather temperatures 15-20 percent above normal, it doesn’t take much to melt snowpack,” McGuire added.
Even with Memorial Day approaching, McGuire said the water content in the snowpack is significant. He said the monitoring station at Ebbetts Pass, which feeds water into the Carson River, reports 59 inches of water content. Normal water content for this time of year is 7.2 inches. He said Heavenly Valley, which feeds into rivers in both Nevada and California, has 32 inches of water content, while Mount Rose has 77 inches.
“That’s my big concern toward the end of May,” McGuire said. “We still have 5 feet of water in the snowpack.”
Rusty Jardine, TCID’s general manager, said Lahontan Reservoir still has enough room to receive high flows from the Carson River. If flashboards were installed at the dam, Jardine said the reservoir has more than 100,000 acre-feet of water storage available. The reservoir currently has 204,000 acre-feet of water as of Tuesday.
Jardine also said the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge and Carson Sink still have room for extra water. McGuire said by the end of the week, the Cason River may be running near 5,000 cubic feet per second at 8.3 feet, less than 2 feet away from flood stage at the Weeks Bridge south of Bucklands Station.
Although the Carson River is not running as fast between the dam and Bafford Lane east of Fallon, Jardine warns residents and business owners to be vigilant and have sandbags ready in case they need them. Residents who need sandbags may pick them up at the Churchill County Fairgrounds between 8 a.m.-4 p.m. seven days a week excluding holidays.
In Lyon County, McGuire said the forecast for flooding on the Walker River shows the river to reach a peak of about 2,500 cubic feet per second by Friday instead of the earlier forecast of 3,370.
The change has provided local officials with some relief and allows additional time to complete protective measures. County Manager Jeff Page said it doesn’t mean the community is out of the woods yet, and the public should continue with their protective measures, and those measures should be kept in place for the weeks to come.