Wet snow, warm rain mean disaster
New Year’s Eve 1997 – an estimated 21 inches of wet, heavy snow loaded tree branches to the breaking point and clogged streets for more than a week, but that was nothing.
During the night, a monsoon-like wind blew over the Sierra Nevada and brought with it a warm rain and a rush of water not seen in Northern Nevada since 1955.
The flood which began New Year’s Day 1997 cost a kind-hearted Gardnerville man his life.
Frederick Franklin Pinard, 59, was working in a front-end loader along the banks of the Carson River, which was swollen to 10 times its normal size, when the bank gave way sweeping him and the 18-ton loader downstream.
Memorial services were held for Pinard in February, though his remains were not found until nearly a year later about a mile from the trailer park he was trying to save.
Friends described Pinard as gentle, giving, hard-working, generous, caring and religious.
He was born Feb. 10, 1937 in Long Beach, Calif. the son of Frank and Mary Pinard. He was survived by his son, Dana; daughter, Janine Bliss; granddaughter, Brigitte; a brother, Neal; and a sister, Phyllis Callen. His wife, Sandra, died some years before of a lung disorder.
Pinard was said to have fed a skunk named Flower, built a frog house and fed squirrels off his feet.
“He died doing what he was most good at, which was helping out,” said friend Steve Erven.
Pinard was trying to protect residents and homes in the Riverview Trailer Park about five miles south of Gardnerville the second day of the flood.
At the time, there was so much water in such a large area that helicopter pilots called in to search for Pinard were unable to find the main course of the river. The river was expected to crest at 16,300 cubic feet of water per second. More than twice flood stage, which is 7,500 cfs.
Other victims of the flood included Mono County resident Lou and Sonja deBottari. The deBottaris went to bed New Year’s Day to dream of retiring on the sale of their lodge along the west fork of the Walker River.
They woke to find their three-story Mountain Gate Lodge, its 11 cabins, their car and their $1.3 million nest egg washed away.
The deBottaris had found a buyer for the lodge and planned to retire to a home in Carson City’s Kings Canyon.
Road closures nearly made an island of the capital city as the Highway 395 between Carson and Reno flooded in Washoe Valley, Highway 50 West closed near Spooner Summit because of Rock Slides and the Highway 395 south of Walker, Calif., through Walker Canyon slid.
It was the slide in Walker Canyon that was responsible for the loss of the Mountain Gate Lodge.
In town, streets on the west side of town were closed, water poured across Carson Street at Musser and Stewart as the water from the canyons to the west tried to make its way to the Carson River.
Unlike the damage in Washoe and Douglas counties caused by an overflowing river, Carson received most of its damage as the water rushed out of the canyons and bottle necked in the city’s storm drain system on its way to the river. The river never left its banks through Carson.
At one point a 50-gallon barrel clogged the channel beneath Fifth Street, the water finding release as a geyser gushing through a man hole.
Though the city thought it was prepared in advance with 4,000 sandbags on hand, officials estimate 100,000 would have been better upon looking back at the situation.
Today, the city has a stash of 100,000 sand bags.
The flood in Carson was said to reach levels seen only once in any 100-year period, but was less dramatic along the Truckee River where storage facilities were built after the 1955 event.
In east Carson City, trailers in the Parkland Avenue Mobile Home Park were up to their front doors in water and were evacuated by Carson City firefighters.
Two weeks later, Parkland Avenue area resident Gladys Brister took City Manager John Berkich on a tour through her flood-damaged neighborhood in hopes the city would find a solution to the problem.
Brister said runoff from the Carson Mall, the Nevada Department of Transportation and other businesses west of her neighborhood caused large amounts of water to flow to her neighborhood during the flood and at several other times in the past decade.
A ditch, put in by the city to catch the water 10 years ago, was overgrown with weeds and didn’t handle the flood waters.
Brister, and her 20-25 neighbors whose homes were damaged during the flood, were looking to the city for a solution.
Since the flood, the city has completed most repairs and began to study in earnest a solution to its storm drain problem.
A committee of residents working with a team of engineers this past summer hammered out solutions to drainage accompanying the Carson City freeway.
Solving part of the drainage equation in the canyons, the system is expected to reduce the structures needed along the freeway, save the state money and help with flooding in north and west Carson City.
The money saved by the state, about $5 million is to go to the city to pay for the system.
Work on the upstream detention system is to be done in conjunction with the first leg of the freeway.
The next hurdle will be for the city to find money to upgrade the system throughout town. Several ideas are in the works including adding to property taxes and creating special districts.
Paper: Nevada Appeal – 2 days to the millennium – Saturday, Nov. 29, 1997
Publisher: Jeff Ackerman
General Manager: Steve Braver
Editor: Barry Smith
City Editor: Robb Hicken
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