Nevada road remains impassible after earthen dam fails
ELKO — A Nevada state road remained closed and impassible Thursday, a day after an earthen dam failed in a rural area of northeastern Nevada and released fast-moving water that covered low-lying roads and forced the rerouting of trains.
The National Weather Service said flash-flood warnings have expired, but flood warnings remain in effect near Montello. Meteorologist Brian Boyd says most of the water that’s built up behind the dam during a heavy snow season has now been released.
Nevada State Route 233 remained closed to the Utah border Thursday morning, the day after the dam released waters 2 to 3 feet deep at times. The county declared a state of emergency due to heavy rains that caused an earthen dam to burst, washed out a state highway and triggered flash flooding near the Utah line.
Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts says county commissioners approved the state of emergency Thursday as his deputies searched for anyone who might be stranded.
No injuries have been reported. Authorities say there appears to be extensive damage to several ranches and farms. Most of the region remains under a flood warning.
Pitts says about 30 residences have been impacted by the floodwaters in Montello since the Twentyone Mile Dam broke Wednesday afternoon. A 10-mile stretch of State Route 233 remains closed.
Pitts says the emergency declaration will make the county eligible for state assistance.
Pitts said Wednesday that basements in the area flooded, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
The floods also forced delays or rerouting for more than a dozen freight and passenger trains on a main rail line that runs through the area, said Union Pacific spokesman Justin E. Jacobs. Crews have begun assessing washed out and damaged areas. It’s unknown when service will be restored.
The rural area affected is near the Utah border and about 30 miles northeast of Wells, a key Nevada city along Interstate 80.
The weather service said that a full breach and failure of the 21 Mile Dam sent water spilling out in a “dangerous and life-threatening situation.”
KSL-TV in Salt Lake City reported water flowing in some streets of Montello, a small community in Elko County, had emergency crews responding to set up sand bags around homes and businesses.
Kevin Hall, a captain with the East Elko Fire Protection District, told the station that the flooding and the breach were due to heavy runoff and snowmelt.
A postal spokesman for Nevada said the Elko Daily Free Press that the Montello Post Office was “swamped,” but workers were able to retrieve all the mail.
The weather service advised people in the area to move to higher ground and to avoid flooded roadways. Officials said most flood deaths occur in vehicles.