River slows as temperatures drop in Carson-Douglas | NevadaAppeal.com

River slows as temperatures drop in Carson-Douglas

by Susie Vasquez, Appeal Staff Writer
Cold weather has slowed down the Carson River. April rain and snow are unlikely to cause the river to jump its banks this year, thanks to a dry winter.

The chance of spring flooding is minimal despite the series of storms pounding the Sierra Nevada, said National Weather Service specialist Rudy Cruz.

“We aren’t predicting any rapid warming for the next two weeks,” he said. “The snow will be melting very slowly.”

Cruz said minor flooding on the riverbanks is normal in the spring and years of drought will provide an added buffer, as Nevada’s dry soils absorb any extra runoff.

“You never know what’s going to happen in the future, but it would take some very unusual conditions to accelerate the snow melting in the Sierra,” said Kim Goddard, district chief for the United States Geological Survey. “Temperatures would have to get very cold and then very warm, or we’d have to get rain on top of snow.”

Heavy snows, followed by rain in the Sierra Nevada, created that situation in January 1997. The Carson River reached its record depth of 18.43 feet and the flow climbed to a record 30,500 cubic feet per second.

The Carson River was running at 394 cubic feet per second Monday, a significant drop over a week ago when the river discharge 600 cubic feet per second. The depth of the river stands at about 3 feet, far below the 10-foot flood stage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Web site. Annual precipitation is slightly below normal for this time of year, but that doesn’t mean the drought is over, Cruz said.

“We’ve received 5.71 inches since July 1 and the normal is 6.28 inches,” he said. “We’re still behind, but last week’s series of storms dropped a lot of snow in Sierra. That made a big difference.”

Kirkwood Mountain Resort reported between 11 and 15 feet of snowpack Monday, and Heavenly Ski Resort between 4 and 5.5 feet.

“This is fantastic,” a Heavenly spokeswoman said. “We got 4-6 inches today and there’s more to come.”

Weather is expected to remain unstable throughout the week, the forecast calling for continuous showers today. Storms should decrease Wednesday but another system is expected Friday or Saturday.

“We’re in a pattern and it’s expected to last until the end of the month,” Cruz said. “It could get a little warmer and dryer around April 28.”

Temperatures are expected to range in the high 50s and low 60s over the next week. The chance of precipitation will diminish through Wednesday, then increase again Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service.