A night-time Aug. 6 flash flood that filled Pine Nut Creek and sent water and mud across Fish Springs may have been the second 100-year event in a month.
A 100-year flood means there’s only a 1 percent chance of a certain sized event in any given year.
Interim County Manager Larry Werner said there’s a 63 percent chance that there will be two of those sized floods in a year.
Those weren’t hard odds to beat with an unprecedented monsoon season, which brought moisture to Western Nevada and prompted four floods resulting in damage to public and private property.
The night of the Fish Springs flood, National Weather Service reported Doppler radar indicated an inch of rain had fallen at the top of Pine Nut Creek in 45 minutes.
According to the weather service’s tables that would come close to being a 200-year flood, which would see 1.11 inches of rain over 30 minutes.
Werner said the weather pattern that resulted in flooding across the county is remarkable.
“None of us have ever seen this before,” he said. “We were hit by an extraordinary storm. There’s no way we could afford to design structures to withstand that.”
Exacerbating the flooding was the large amount of sediment included in the July 20 flood.
“The mud flow was a different sort of animal,” he said. “Every time it hit a culvert it would plug it up and then jump over the road and do it again the next time.”
A state damage assessment team visited 75 properties on Wednesday, as they toured Fish Springs and Johnson Lane to gather information about the level of damage from flooding in Douglas County.
Team members also contacted residents who used the county’s flood hotline or email, according to county spokeswoman Melissa Blosser.
“We made it personal yesterday with those impacted and I am proud of that effort,” said District Fire Chief Tod Carlini, who is also county emergency manager. “We went to the people yesterday, and we want to thank everyone who called in and reported damage. It is important that we document damages as we attempt to qualify for state funding.”
On July 20, the base of Hot Springs Mountain received 1.21 inches of rain in just over an hour, sending water and mud into northern Carson Valley neighborhoods.
Another storm near Mount Siegel in the Pine Nut Mountains on Aug. 6 sent water roaring down Pine Nut Creek, cutting off the community of Fish Springs. The declaration came with a fourth flood on Monday that rushed into upper Stephanie Way overwhelming already filled culverts.
Once the assessment team finishes its report, it will be reviewed by the state and then sent to the governor, who will determine whether the damage qualifies the county for a state declaration.
Should the governor declare a disaster in Douglas County, residents would be eligible for low-interest loans to restore their property.
Blosser said all of the information received from emails and calls has been collected and will be used to produce a location specific flood damage map to further access damages and review areas of concern.
County workers and contractors are cleaning up debris left from the flood and clearing ditches and culverts.
“We can assure you we have everything we have access to out and on the ground, cleaning ditches and clearing debris,” said Chris Oakden, road maintenance operations superintendent. “As a public entity there are some things we just can’t do, for instance cleaning up private property. Our main priority is cleaning out the ditches, clearing debris from public roadways and not letting things get backed up while maintaining the safety of our employees and our residents.”
Werner said the county is working on mapping the north Valley floods in the same way it did Fish Springs.
More than 200 properties were damaged including those who lost their yards to flood waters.
“Some people were angry we wouldn’t put the dirt that had washed out of their yards back,” he said.