Whether it was wind or just the weather, lots to talk about
RENO – Think that last wind storm was bad? It wouldn’t have stacked up with the worst weather of the century.
As the century draws to a close, the National Weather Service in Reno has reviewed records of major events to affect the western Nevada area over the past 100 years.
Based on the effects on people, property and the economy, the top 10 weather-related events in the region were identified – ranging from 100 mph winds to the snowiest month ever.
Most of the larger events are recent, because record keeping has improved in the latter half of the century, while urbanization of the region has increased the economic impacts of severe storms and floods.
Jan. 14, 1988 – 100 mph winds in the Reno-Carson City-Minden area caused an estimated $1 million in damage. Buildings which had entire roofs blown off, a chapel that lost a 70-foot steeple and several small planes overturned at local airports were some of the effects.
Jan. 1916 – The snowiest month ever recorded in the Truckee Meadows. Nearly 66 inches of snow fell that month in downtown Reno for a monthly precipitation total of nearly 7 inches. Average annual precipitation for Reno is only 7.5 inches.
Feb. 16-17, 1990 -This was quite a blustery storm setting a 24-hour snowfall record at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport of 18 inches and a two-day storm total of 21 inches.
Dec. 21-23, 1964 – An unseasonably warm storm brought torrential rain of up to 16 inches in some mountain areas causing part of the snow pack to melt. This caused flooding in both the Truckee and Carson River basins.
February 1986 – A warm light rain began to fall on Feb. 12, becoming heavy on Feb. 15 and finally leaving the area on Feb. 18. Localized flooding on the eastern slopes of the Sierra began on Feb. 15, with the main rivers reaching flood conditions by Feb. 17. The Truckee River crested on Feb. 18 at 16,100cfs, causing all but two of the bridges to be closed in Reno and Sparks. Estimated damage in 1986 dollars was $12,700,000.
May 1983 – Much of the Eastern Sierra had problems with flooding and mud slides during the month of May, but the most significant event occurred on Memorial Day. Warm temperatures and melting snow caused a landslide on the south side of Slide Mountain to slip and crash into Upper Price Lake. This mud flow continued down Ophir Creek and into Washoe Valley. A 15-foot wall of mud and debris damaged nine homes, killed one person and injured six others.
December 1955 – Beginning on the 21st of the month, a large unseasonably warm storm dropped 10 to 13 inches of precipitation in the Sierra Nevada in a three-day period. Most of this fell as rain and melted most of the existing snow pack, resulting in major flooding across western Nevada. The Reno airport was flooded to a depth of four feet with water from the Truckee River. Damages on the Walker, Carson and Truckee River basins were estimated to be nearly $4 million dollars in 1955, which is equivalent to about $23 million today. One life was lost.
Feb. 1-8, 1989 – A major winter storm hit all of Nevada. High winds of 85 mph were reported on the first. A number of automobile accidents occurred due to reduced visibility in blowing dust and sand.
Heavy snow then began falling late in the evening on the first, dropping three feet of snow in the mountains and over 14 inches in the valleys. A cold Arctic air mass came in behind the snow dropping temperatures to well below zero.
In western Nevada, the lows dropped to minus 31 Fahrenheit in Smith Valley on the sixth and minus 29 in Spanish Springs on the seventh. A record low of minus 43 was recorded at Boca Reservoir in eastern California. The cold weather caused numerous broken water pipes and property damage.
1950 – The period of Nov. 13-Dec. 8 saw a series of very warm storms that moved through the area melting much of the early snow pack. Much of the downtown area of Reno was flooded, including the Riverside Hotel which had four feet of water on the main floor.
The peak discharge in Reno was 19,900 cfs on Nov. 21. The East Fork of the Carson River and the West Walker River also flooded. In 1950 dollars the combined damages for the three basins was $4.4 million. More than 200 people had to be evacuated from their homes and two deaths were reported.
January 1997 – On Dec. 30, 1996, a series of subtropical storms moved into western Nevada dropping rain atop an unseasonably high Sierra Nevada snow pack. The warm heavy rains contributed to extreme runoff and flooding across western Nevada over the next several days.
All three major river basins in the Eastern Sierra had devastating flooding. In the Truckee River Basin, a temporary lake was formed at the eastern side of the Truckee Meadows. This lake covered an area of more than 3,000 acres to depths up to six feet.
The Reno-Tahoe International Airport was closed for more than a day as water nearly reached the fuselage of some commercial airliners. In the Carson River Basin, levee failures resulted in residential areas having three feet deep water among the houses. In the Walker River Basin, the upper basin and the lower basin were both greatly affected.
In Yerington and Mason Valley, where the West Fork of the Walker meets up with the East Fork, the flooding was more than a mile wide in some places. There were two lives lost during this flood event. This flood is known to be the most damaging and costly flood event on record, with regional damages of more than $500 million.
– Nov. 5, 1973 windstorm – Strong winds destroyed nearly half of a trailer park in Stead. Small warehouses were destroyed in Stead and Sparks. Cars were reportedly overturned.
– 1986-1994 drought – Long dry period across much of western Nevada. Large agriculture losses reported along with major impacts to wetland areas such as the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge and Washoe Lake.
– March 1907 – Serious flooding on all three major river basins in extreme western Nevada. Many roads and bridges were either closed or destroyed.