Douglas County hazard preparedness stressed at meeting |

Douglas County hazard preparedness stressed at meeting

by Amy Alonzo

In just the past year Douglas County has been hit by drought, floods and wildfires, and on Wednesday night about 50 area residents gathered at the Johnson Lane Volunteer Fire House to learn how to better prepare for such natural hazards.

“We can’t really stop earthquakes. We can’t stop floods. We can’t stop fires. But one thing we can do is prepare for those events and make ourselves safe,” said meeting organizer Mike Mackin, a consulting geologist who served on the Douglas County Flood Task Force.

Mackin and other area experts spoke about floods, fires, earthquakes and infrastructure and offered tips on how residents can prepare for unexpected events.

Craig dePolo of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology said the Northern Nevada region has a 60-80 percent chance of being hit by a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake within the next 50 years.

“Nevada’s earthquake country,” he said. “We just have to be ready.”

Nevada has more than 1,500 earthquake faults compared to less than 800 in California, he said. Until about 1960, Nevada “was known as an earthquake state as much as California was.”

“There’s no part of Nevada that doesn’t have earthquake potential,” dePolo said.

He reminded residents to prepare for quakes by refraining from hanging heavy objects over beds; keeping a sturdy pair of shoes near their bed in case of an evacuation; to have a designated safe place in each room; and to have three to five days worth of medicine, water and food on hand. If a quake strikes he said to duck, cover and hold and to remember to check on neighbors after any danger is over.

Douglas County Stormwater Specialist Courtney Walker talked about flooding in the county, specifically the Johnson Lane area.

The county applied for and received a $285,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to develop a drainage master plan study for the Johnson Lane area. The plan will cover 10 square-miles and should be completed in about a year, Walker said.

“Every neighborhood in Douglas County could benefit from a plan like this,” she said.

Walker said currently the county reacts to disasters rather than being proactive.

“We’re really, really lacking in our inability to maintain our infrastructure,” she said.

East Fork Fire Protection District Captain Terry Taylor also mentioned a need for improvements to infrastructure, citing the traffic jams that sprung up on Jacks Valley Road after the majority of roads in and out of the valley, including Highway 395, closed in January and February due to flooding.

“God help us if there was an emergency on Jacks Valley Road — there was no way to get through,” he said.

Taylor also said this winter’s heavy rainfall means an extremely high wildfire risk in the summer.

“Our fuel is going to be about four times what it was last year,” he said. “We’ll have healthier trees and more grass.”

Fire season will likely start in June in the valley, he said. Taylor reminded residents to keep a 10-15 foot cleared perimeter around their homes and to landscape with fire-resistant plants.

“We have incredible fuel packages all around us and lousy roads,” he said. “We’re really islands in an ocean of fuel.”