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Wet weather should be drying up

by Merrie Leininger

The wet weather caused a few problems in the Carson Valley, but they should dry up soon, along with snow and rain, according to the National Weather Service in Reno.

Meteorologist Roger Lamoni said the forecast is for dry weather.

“The weather should be improved by (Wednesday) and dry for the foreseeable future. We’re on the down side of this storm. It looks like maybe we’re going into an extended period of dry weather,” he said Tuesday.

While the mountains received an incredible 6 to 7 feet of the white stuff, the Valley saw a dusting of snow that was replaced at mid-day by rain, for a total of between 1 and 1-1/2 inches of precipitation.

State climatologist John James said this storm has brought the area much needed water. However, the Carson River is still only at 40 percent of its average level for this time of year and the Walker River is even lower at 30 percent.

James said the snow the area received Monday held about double the amount of water usually seen in the area, which was the reason for avalanches, but is also good news for spring run-off.

“We’re just getting a taste of what winter is really like. It was so dry and warm in the fall. But big storms this time of year are usual. The last couple of years have been so wonderful, though, so we’re due for a dry year. It’s too early to tell, though. We have a long way to go,” James said.

Carson River Watermaster and Centerville weather watcher Julian Larrouy said Centerville had 1.22 inches of precipitation in a 48-hour period.

“We just witnessed history,” Larrouy laughed. “This is the largest storm of the century.”

Lamoni said Woodfords and areas west received closer to 2 inches while areas east of the Valley received less than 1 inch.

The wet, heavy snow that fell Monday was the cause of an avalanche on Carson Pass that trapped a Woodfords man for about 45 minutes.

Lamoni said so much heavy snow in such a short period of time caused the avalanche.

Bob Stephens, who owns Woodfords Auto Service and Towing, was driving a tow truck home from Kirkwood Mountain Resort just after noon when the slide occurred.

“A little slide came down and boxed him in, but he was all right,” said Sgt. Roman Vondriska of the California Highway Patrol.

“It wasn’t fun, but it was no big deal. I’ve been caught in them before,” said Stephens, who said he has been trapped by at least six avalanches. “I have been towing up here since I opened my first shop in 1958, so six slides since then isn’t too bad.”

The slide was approximately 10 feet deep and between 40 and 50 feet across, according to Stephens.

A spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation said Carson Pass was closed three times Monday for avalanche control and the spur west of Kirkwood was closed at 1 p.m. for the rest of the day.

In the Valley there was no fear of avalanches, and Deputy Fire Chief Steve Eisele said there weren’t even any car accidents.

“It was real quiet even with the snow. It came so late, a lot of commuters got out before it. We had a lot of snow here in town, but a lot of outlying areas just got rain,” Eisele said.

The fire departments responded to a sparking power wire Monday afternoon on James Road in the Ranchos.

“There really is nothing we can do but go out to make sure nothing is burning. We just secure the area until the power company gets there, then turn it over,” Eisele said.

According to spokesperson Karl Walquist of Sierra Pacific Power Co., the rain on a dirty insulator caused the electricity to “track.”

“Then that caused the insulator to burn off and the wire fell into the transformer and damaged the transformer,” Walquist said.

Electricity for all 850 Ranchos customers was off for about an hour. Walquist said about 10 homes directly surrounding the transformer near the intersection of Langley and James roads did not have power until the transformer could be replaced at 9 p.m.

– R-C News Service reporter Bradley Foster contributed to this story.