Flood dangers pass; Sierra rain turned snow
December 4, 2012
RENO – Residents of Northern Nevada and the Sierra were relieved to be gathering up sand bags instead of flood debris Monday after a sudden shift in the weekend weather turned rain into snow, keeping rivers and streams largely within their banks in Reno, Sparks and Truckee, Calif.
Rescue crews searched for a homeless man in Reno who reportedly fell into the Truckee River off a limb Sunday night. They had no confirmed reports of any injuries or serious property damage.
More rain was forecast to move into the Sierra tonight and Wednesday, but precipitation on the eastern side of the Sierra front was expected to total only a few inches, significantly less than last week’s storm that brought more than 6 inches to Truckee and nearly 4 inches in south Reno.
Businesses owners had braced for the worst and piled hundreds of sand bags along the Truckee River in anticipation of flooding over the weekend, especially in the industrial areas of east Reno and Sparks that were hardest hit by 1997 flood.
“We were lucky,” Sparks Assistant City Manager Steve Driscoll said.
“We dodged a bullet,” added Gary Barbato, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Reno.
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The danger passed Sunday afternoon as the colder weather brought the snow level down in the mountains and river flows peaked well below flood level in east Sparks.
“Just when we were expecting the heaviest rain, it turned to snow,” Squaw Valley Fire Chief Peter Bansen said.
“It was wet and heavy, but it stuck together and glued to the mountain and stayed there, rather than flowing into the river. I think that really helped a lot.”
As a result, residents and businesses were taking down the walls of sandbags and most ski resorts around Lake Tahoe and the Sierra were celebrating 3.5 feet of new snow over a five-day period.
“You just never know how these storms are going to play out,” said Andy Chapman, chief marketing officer for the North Lake Tahoe Chamber/CVB/Resort Association. “But Mother Nature cooperated and we’ve got new snow on the mountains.”
In Reno, city officials said the man that may have been swept away in the Truckee River on Sunday was a 51-year-old homeless man who had been camping in the area with another homeless man.
The second man identified the missing man as William Paul Clark. He told authorities Clark was climbing a tree when the limb broke and he fell into the cold, rushing water after 6 p.m. Sunday, city officials said in a statement Monday.
Reno Fire Department officials resumed a search in the area on Monday while the Sparks Fire Department searched the river east of there and Washoe County officials searched even further east near Lockwood.
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