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River repairs are holding

by Linda Hiller

Even before the first precipitation in nearly a month fell on the Carson Valley over night Monday, yielding .14 inches of rain in Minden, river experts were looking at the Carson River to see how its banks are holding following completion of flood repairs.

“We’re very happy with things so far,” said Jane Schmidt of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The river is holding very well – we don’t even have a bank full and we have plenty of room left in the channel.”

Key river sites damaged in the 1997 New Year’s flood have been repaired as of this month, some with odd-looking weirs jutting out into the river channel, Schmidt said. These areas include Highway 88 to Muller, Lutheran Bridge to Highway 88, Virginia /Rocky area and the Settelmeyer/Lahontan Fish Hatchery sections of the Carson River.

“So far, they look great,” Schmidt said. “The tributaries in the upper part of the watershed are staying in their banks, which is just what we want. Right now, it doesn’t look like we’re facing any flooding problems.”

n Monday night’s storm. Rudy Cruz, a weather service specialist for the National Weather Service, said Monday’s thunderstorms were typical of spring weather in Northern Nevada, yielding a wide range of rainfall over a large area.

“We had hail up to 1-1/2 inches in the Donner area early Tuesday morning, and in Minden we recorded .14 inches from one of our weather watchers,” he said. “In southern Reno, there was .4 inches of rain, and I live north of Reno where we didn’t have anything. These storms typically move around, which is why we get the different numbers. The last big rainfall we had was on April 29.”

Schmidt said the “thousands of willows” planted on the Carson River’s banks since the 1997 flood are holding their own, and she saw plenty of snow on her last trip into the Sierra.

“There’s still a lot of snow up there,” she said. “I was at Wolf Creek this weekend, and there was at least 4 feet of snow,” she said. “If we were to have some sudden, super hot weather, we could have a problem, but that seems unlikely.”

n Water expert’s view. National Weather Service Hydrologist Gary Barbato said he agrees that the chance for flooding is unlikely at this point, since typical spring thunderstorms, like Monday night, do not generally involve large amounts of rain, particularly in Northern Nevada.

“Our ‘garden variety’ thunderstorms usually yield relatively small numbers of precipitation – maybe one-fourth of an inch – unless they sit over the same spot, and then we might will get an inch or so,” he said. “We have had those storms here, but they’re unusual. It’s more common to see this type of life-threatening storm in Southern Nevada, where they’re closer to the source, with moisture coming from the warmer Gulf of California and Gulf of Mexico waters. Our ocean is much colder up here, so our storms are not typically as wet.”

Barbato said the current stage (a measurement in feet related to flood stage) numbers on the Carson River are on par with this time of year.

“We show 4-1/2 feet in Gardnerville on the East Fork, where flood stage is 7 feet, and 13.1 feet on the West Fork of the Carson River, where flood stage is 14 feet,” he said. “I’d say it will stay up around these stages for the next few days, but it looks just fine.”

Barbato said the worst scenario would be for warming temperatures that included a lengthy rain in the mountains, but it is unlikely.

“This time of year, we typically don’t get big rain events, and our forecast is only for thunderstorms, where you can have localized flash flooding,” he said. “We generally don’t see river levels come up with those storms.”