Douglas flood damage estimated at $55 million |

Douglas flood damage estimated at $55 million

Linda Hiller

The latest dollar figures on the flood damage in Douglas County are estimated at $55 million, according to a report by Scott Hickman of the National Weather Service office in Reno.

Several agencies were used to assess the financial damages, which NWS hydrologist Gary Barbato stressed is just a preliminary estimate.

“We got figures from FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), the Federal Highway Administration, the Small Business Administration, the Douglas County Emergency Service office, and newspaper clippings.”

The report states that damage and cleanup figures were used to arrive at the totals. The economic impact from business closures and blocked roads was not factored in.

Hickman, who is a NWS meteorological intern, reported that the cause of the New Year’s flood came from several factors.

“First, the Sierra and western Nevada had experienced two above normal precipitation years (1995, 1996),” the report said.

“Second a major winter storm Dec. 21 and 22 deposited heavy snow in the Sierra and western Nevada. Four to six feet of snow was common below 7,000 feet in the Sierra, with up to eight feet at higher elevations.”

The report stated that one to three feet of snow was found across the valleys of western Nevada, and the following week which included New Year’s day, there was a dramatic change in the weather pattern.

“Copious amounts of moisture and warm air were transported from the subtropics into the Sierra and western Nevada,” the report said. “The heaviest rainfall occurred on Jan 1 and 2, and snow levels were as high as 11,700 feet on Jan. 1.”

For Douglas County, the damage estimate included $5 million for the more than 75 homes that sustained damage and $50 million for the damage to levee and irrigation systems.

“This doesn’t even include damage that my office has yet to receive calls on,” said Dan Kaffer, Western Nevada Resource, Conservation and Development Area Coordinator.

“There is a whole stretch of river from Genoa to the Carson City border that we haven’t even been contacted about, primarily because no one lives on that stretch of river,” he said.

Federal money for Nevada is still stuck in both the House and the Senate in Washington, DC, according to Kaffer.

“We have $50 to $55 million in federal support for Nevada alone coming from both the House and the Senate,” he said. “This was supposed to be through by late April or early May,” he said, “so we’re hoping to hear soon.”

Dick Mirgon, communications director for Douglas County Emergency Management, said he thought the $55 million estimate might be a bit high.

“It strikes me as high, but then it depends on what they were using to come to that figure,” he said.

According to the NWS report, damages for outlying counties include: $540.2 million for Washoe, $6.4 for Carson City, $19.5 million for Lyon, $3 million for Storey, $345,000 for Churchill, $2,400 for Mineral, $5.9 million for Alpine and $78 million for Mono.

Total estimated damage for the state of Nevada is $632.5 million. Damage to the federal highway system in Nevada is $8 million.

Adding in the figures from California, the total dollar amount of damages from the New Year’s flood comes to just under $1 billion.

“It was tough to come to a definitive dollar amount,” Barbato said, “and it could change tomorrow.”