Will it happen again?
Douglas County officials kept a wary eye on stream flows and weather reports overnight as rain soaked the Carson Valley, dropping more than 2 inches in 24 hours.
The National Weather Service canceled a flood warning Tuesday afternoon, saying that no flooding was occurring or expected on the East Fork of the Carson River.
East Fork Watermaster Julian Larrouy said a river gauge in Markleeville which measures the volume of the Carson River malfunctioned Tuesday, giving off a reading of 5,890 cubic feet per second river flow.
“We questioned that reading because the water wasn’t showing up here in the bottom part of the river,” Larrouy said. “It was more like 3,000 cubic feet per second.”
The canceled flood warning was good news to county department heads and law enforcement personnel who met twice Tuesday afternoon to hear updates on the river and weather.
“That’s a blessing,” said Douglas County Sheriff’s Officer Lance Modispacher. “I’ll take a wrong reading anytime as long as it’s going down.”
DCSO Lt. Robert Wenner said deputies would watch for any signs of flooding during overnight patrol. The fire and road districts also had personnel on standby should flooding occur.
“The flood warning has been canceled, but the conditions still remain such that a change in the weather could mean flooding yet,” Modispacher said in a news release. “The county manager and emergency manager’s offices will continue to monitor conditions and the weather for the next several weeks. Residents can rest assured that sufficient warning will take place should an emergency develop.”
Officials asked residents to call 782-9931 with questions or concerns rather than tying up emergency lines.
“With the snowpack in the mountains at about 150 percent above normal and warmer temperatures in the spring, we all need to do our part and plan ahead.”
Scattered showers are expected today and the snow level is to drop to 5,500 feet, lessening the chance for heavy runoff.
Larrouy said the county’s magic number is 7,000. As long as the river’s CFS stay below 7,000 and the snow level stays at 7,000 feet, the chance of flooding is diminished.
“We’re talking more rain, but the snow level is lowering and that should ease the situation,” Larrouy side.
“We do not expect anything like the January 97 flood. The river is not near capacity.” said Dick Mirgon, Douglas County Emergency Management communications director.
Although minor flooding already occurred Tuesday at some creeks, Mirgon estimated it would take significantly more rain to reach stages where the Carson River would flood.
“I think we would have to see another 24 hours of rain like this, below 8,000 feet or so,” he said. “Right now, the snow level is about 6,500 feet, and it’s expected to come down.”
Dan Kaffer, western Nevada resource conservation and development coordinator for the United States Department of Agriculture, agreed that severe flooding is not expected. With a snow “ceiling” as low as 6,500 feet, a significant amount of snow runoff is not expected.
The average flows for the spring are between 2,000 and 4,000 CFS, according to Kaffer.
“It’s not anything critical at this point,” he said. “It’s significant flow, but it’s not at flood stage.”
The January 1997 flood had stream flows as high as 22,000 CFS.
However, it is hard to estimate what would cause flooding in the river. Kaffer said only about one-third of the needed repairs from the ’97 flood have been completed.
“It’s different in different areas. It’s all relative to where you are on the river,” Kaffer said. “Channel capacity, in some places, is low. In some places, it’s not.”
Even without flooding, the rising river could cause damage. Banks of the river eroded by the 1997 flood could wash away more, and sediment deposits can be carried downstream, which may or may not cause damage at new locations.
However, nothing like the 1997 flood is expected. Still, emergency personnel are watching the river and the weather closely.
Mirgon said the county did some preparatory work over the weekend to ensure that it was as prepared as possible if a flood does occur. The county’s volunteer fire departments have sand and sandbags ready for anyone who needs them.
Mirgon said residents should watch streams closely and move property away from potential flood areas. Residents with problems regarding high water can call 782-9935. If it is an emergency, residents should call 911.
The amount of rain received Monday night was close, if not equal, to the amount received Jan. 1, 1997. However, several other factors were involved in the 1997 flood.
Minden weather watcher Ted Hendricks said he measured 1.3 inches of rain from Monday afternoon to Tuesday morning. His records show Minden received 1.35 on New Year’s Day 1997. However, the area received much more precipitation prior to the flood than there is now.
From October 1997, Hendricks said he has recorded more than 7 inches of precipitation. The amount is above normal – because the area’s October-to-October average is about 9-1/2 inches – but the amount is not near the 12 inches of precipitation received from October 1996 to March 1997.
“From a 24-hour standpoint, we got just about as much as the first day of the New Year’s flood, but last year we had so much precipitation prior to that first day of the flood,” Hendricks said. “Sure, this is a wet storm, but I would really be surprised if there were any significant problems.”
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Larrouy recorded 1.61 inches of precipitation in Centerville; weather watcher George Uebele recorded 2.38 inches in Sheridan.
“I can see a lot of ponds springing up out here,” said Uebele. “The ground is really soaked.”
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