‘Saturation flooding’ could be coming to Northern Nevada
April 13, 2017
Experts from the National Guard to Conservation and Natural Resources and Emergency Management say there's so much snow in the mountains around western Nevada if we get more storms and a warm spring, flooding is inevitable.
But Gov. Brian Sandoval, chairing a briefing on the potential flooding, said the state is doing everything possible to minimize the damage that could come.
He said he's confident the state and local officials have the necessary resources including enough revenue and have made the preparations they can.
"It's important we let people know we are prepared for what's coming," he said. "But it's important the public know there is the potential of flooding for an extended period of time."
Col. Cory Schulz of the National Guard said the potential is there to have flooding into May, June and July because there's just so much water in the snowpack.
Estimates are when the Sierra snows melt, up to six feet of water will come down the mountains into the valleys in Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Churchill counties.
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"This will be saturation flooding," he said, noting the ground is already soaked.
He said in places where the water has no outlet, such as Lemmon Valley, that means "standing water for extended periods."
Caleb Cage, head of the Nevada Division of Emergency Management, said Nevada has already received two emergency disaster declarations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is looking at potentially a third application this spring.
Sandoval petitioned the federal government for those declarations and thanked the Trump administration for its prompt, positive response to the state's situation during January and February flooding. Cage said three Nevada counties — Douglas, Lyon and Churchill — have independently declared emergencies ahead of the spring melt.
Reid Kaiser of the Nevada Department of Transportation said that agency has already issued three-dozen emergency contracts to repair and keep Nevada roads open. The largest was repairing the 30-foot washout of the highway to Sutcliffe at Pyramid Lake followed by work to repair the road damage that left Montello in northeast Nevada effectively cut off from the rest of the world. The department issued $10 million in emergency contracts in January and another $3.5 million worth in February.
NDOT officials say they're also keeping an eye on Washoe Valley where the lake is now within four feet of I-580 that connects Reno and Carson City. Officials say they're working to increase the flow down Steamboat Creek to lower the level of Washoe Lake but more storms would "potentially threaten the road."
Other danger points include Cradlebauch Bridge between Gardnerville and Carson City and Highway 50 and U.S. 95 in the Fallon area.