Is there a risk of flood | RecordCourier.com

Is there a risk of flood

by Andy Bourelle

This week’s snowfall and the potential of more snow or rain soon raises the question of whether another flood is possible.

“There’s always a chance,” said Dick Mirgon, Douglas County emergency management communications director. “The river is still in disrepair from last year. We’re up to close to 100 percent snowpack, and the weather is being strange.”

Mirgon said Douglas County emergency management pays close attention to current and forecasted weather conditions. The January 1997 flood gave about five days’ notice, and Mirgon said emergency responders can only watch and wait.

“Right now there is plenty of capacity in the river, but that could change in a matter of two days,” Mirgon said. “If we felt at any time that the community was in jeopardy, even if that wasn’t a sure thing, we would start responding.”

State Climatologist John James said there is no immediate threat.

“Is it going to flood? No,” he said. “This is nothing like it was last year.”

James said the state has had a relatively mild winter, so “whatever snow we get seems like a lot.”

A possible flood would result from warm temperatures melting a significant amount of snow in addition to severe rains.

“It’s purely a factor of how much snow and rain melt we get in a short time period,” Mirgon said. “If we get a lot of rain and snowmelt in a short time period, we have a problem. If we get a lot over an extended time period, we don’t have a problem.”

James said the same.

“Unless we get a lot of warm storms, with a lot of rain and melting snow,” he said, “we aren’t going to have any problems.”

James said the amount of precipitation Nevada has received along with the water content in the snowpack are at normal levels. With the winter precipitation season half over, running from November to April, James said Nevada would have to receive a large amount of precipitation before there would be any problems.

California has had a significant amount of weather problems this season, James said, but Nevada has been lucky most of the storms have not crossed the Sierra.

Temperatures Monday stayed in the 30s as morning rain turned to snow. Up to 2 inches an hour dropped on the Sierra, and

about 4 inches accumulated in the Valley. Gov. Bob Miller declared a weather emergency and allowed non-essential state workers to go home early.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office reported numerous accidents Monday afternoon, with no serious injuries. Residents are urged to call 782-9081 for road information, rather than call 911 and tie up emergency lines and personnel.

Road crews from Minden worked Monday night and Tuesday to clear the town’s 9 miles of roads. Gardnerville does not plow its 22 miles of roads, but Town Manager Diane Pettitt said they received no complaints. Brett Reed, Douglas County road maintenance supervisor, said workers were plowing through Monday night but had no problems. Responsible for 130 miles of paved and 87 miles of dirt roads, Reed said the county workers plowed the major roads first before addressing secondary streets.

A chance of showers is expected today, with snow level at 4,000 to 5,000 feet. High temperatures are expected to be in the upper 20s to mid 30s. A chance of showers are expected every day through Saturday, with temperatures ranging from 20 to 50 degrees.

Whether or not the amount of water coming in the remainder of the season has the potential to cause another flood can only be determined by waiting, but, Mirgon said, the fortunate aspect of floods – opposed to other disasters such as earthquakes or fires – is that floods give from six hours’ to six days’ warning. Even a few hours’ notice, Mirgon said, helps emergency personnel respond to a disaster more efficiently.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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