Alpine County weathers floods

It hardly ever rains here. On the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada range, Alpine County followed the Californian weather pattern of flooding rain after Christmas. Northern Nevada also was beleaguered by this "Pineapple Express" storm, according to reports. Sheets of water-drenched wooded slopes, creating raging streams in otherwise dry-for-the-season irrigation ditches. When the ditches overflowed, pastures were strung out with silver tinsel rivulets leading to the East Fork, West Fork, and Middle Fork (Markleeville Creek) of the Carson River.

"Our county didn't sustain much road damage, because our guys had been busy cleaning out all of the culverts in the weeks preceding the flood, so that the excess water flowed freely through pipes," said new Alpine County Director of Public Works Dennis Cardoza. "We had crews out checking continually for rocks and debris on the roads. The U.S. Forest Service site in Markleeville was flooded (once again) by Markleeville Creek, and it was neat to see firemen, deputies, forest service guys, and others pulling together. Up on Airport Road, the district attorney and his two kids were helping the road crew place sandbags. In Bear Valley, a few pine trees fell over the roads, and a truck was smashed, but fortunately, no one was injured."

Snow falling upon pines was a welcome sight, effectively stopping all flooding. Having recently served as transportation manager and assistant manager of the Mammoth/Yosemite Airport, Cardoza is matter-of-fact about snow.

"First, we clear the emergency areas; second, the roads; and finally, the berms in front of senior citizen's driveways."

He is concerned about the safety of senior citizens, those who live alone, or have medical problems, and he wants his road crew to watch over those folks in times of flood, snow, or power outage. Cardoza heard that Sierra Pacific employees knocked on the doors of some Alpine County residents to ascertain their well-being.

The foot-deep blanket of wet snow that covered the pines and willows also coated electric wires with the same heavy white stuff, and as we gazed at the fairyland scene, we also checked our supply of candles and matches, flashlights and batteries, stoves and firewood.

Sure enough, right after viewing the wet and wild Rose Parade, the television screen pixilated, the lights flickered, the washing machine whimpered, and soon we heard the sound of silence.

We read, talked, contemplated the new year, fired up the wood-burning stove, heated up our homemade minestrone and grilled our bread over that fire. Later, we blew the dust from my lap harp and his fiddle, both handmade by Eric Leffingwell, who served as Head Ranger at Grover Hot Springs for many years. Neither of us can read music, but we were an enthusiastic audience of two enthralled by our original harp and fiddle compositions, snow swirling outside, and romantic candlelight inside. However, the hum of electricity was welcomed after eight hours of "pioneer life." A heartfelt thanks goes to our road and electric crews.

n Gina Gigli is a Markleeville resident.


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