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Disaster averted
by Garrett Valenzuela
Dec 03, 2012 | 2559 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
City of Sparks maintance staff filled trucks with used sandbags during cleanup efforts in the Sparks industrial area Monday afternoon. Many buildings in the south Sparks region were saved from flooding.
City of Sparks maintance staff filled trucks with used sandbags during cleanup efforts in the Sparks industrial area Monday afternoon. Many buildings in the south Sparks region were saved from flooding.
SPARKS — A few days of preparation work was nullified Sunday afternoon when the National Weather Service removed the flood warning for northern Nevada and induced a sigh of relief for the Sparks industrial area.

After initial forecasts predicted flooding of the Truckee River on Sunday, snow levels in the Sierra mountains dropped to 8,000 feet instead of staying at the predicted 9,000 feet. National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Deutschendorf said the accumulations of snow were not enough to cause heavy runoff into the Truckee River.

“That snow is still melting today but at a much slower rate toward the river basins,” he said. “It takes much longer for that snow to runoff when it is melting by the sun and not being affected by heavy rain.”

Deutschendorf said the rivers in northern Nevada would still be flowing quickly though no more flooding is expected to occur. He said another storm is expected to arrive Wednesday with high snow levels in the Sierras, but it would be “less intense” than the weekend’s conditions.

One of the most active locations during all flood preparations was the Washoe County Regional Emergency Operations Center, which coordinated with local businesses, emergency crews and media outlets throughout the weekend. Emergency Manager Aaron Kenneston said the winter season is just getting started and that flooding supplies should be on standby.

“People have been turning in sandbags (Monday) and we don’t want to put that stuff away too far because we may need it for later in the season,” Kenneston said. “We can’t let our guard down just yet, and we need to safeguard those assets in case we need them again.”

The National Weather Service reported the Truckee River at the Vista Boulevard gauge peaked at 11.36 feet at 2:45 a.m. Sunday and began steadily receding thereafter. The river went below 10 feet at 9 a.m. and dwindled to 7.5 feet by Sunday evening. The flood stage of the river at Vista Boulevard is 15 feet.

Kenneston said the county’s preparation techniques and strategies constantly evolve with each possible emergency. He said the floods of 1997 and 2005 taught emergency planners what could be improved, and that avoiding a flood came with its lessons as well.

“We learned a lot in 1997 and the biggest thing we learned was that these emergencies don’t have jurisdictional boundaries, and out of that came the interlocal agreement that when they occur, we stand shoulder to shoulder as one region,” Kenneston said. “What came out of 2005 was the realization we had to get better at informing and working with citizens and businesses and be prepared quicker. That’s what you saw this time around. We were really pushing for everyone to come fill sandbags and we were trying to keep the public informed.”

Kenneston said he and his team members will be meeting frequently during the next few weeks to assess what they learned. He said though data has not been collected from the event, he felt the efforts “went smoothly” and preparation for the flood was done much better.

“We still want to continue working closely with citizens and businesses to get the warnings out and improve how quickly we can respond to those danger areas,” Kenneston said. “We already know we want to move quicker and communicate better.”

The City of Sparks reported Sunday that all barricades blocking the industrial area would be removed at 3:30 p.m. and all traffic signals would return to normal working status. The city removed the state of emergency at 7 p.m. Sunday and also said there were no reports of any significant damage, adding the damage assessment team would not be deployed.

Kenneston stressed that living in an area such as northern Nevada comes with perks and hazards alike given the layout and composition of the region. He said it is important not to forget potential threats and become complacent.

“We live in such a beautiful region that has so many good things about it that it is easy to forget we have hazards also,” he said. “We urge everyone to take a couple moments and think which hazards can affect them, whether it be fire or flooding and we are all prone to earthquakes. Citizens should develop supply kits for any emergency which can keep them alive during the hours of first response.”

The City of Sparks began removing unwanted sandbags Monday and will continue to pick them up through Friday. The city has asked that anyone wishing to discard their sandbags to place them on the nearest city of Sparks street, keeping them clear of travel lanes, sidewalks and off of pallets.

All 11 sandbag locations have been removed therefore sandbags should not be returned there. Anyone wishing to keep their sandbags for future use should take necessary measures to keep them from the elements.

Kenneston said although planning efforts were not put to the test, the preparation by the cities of Sparks and Reno in conjunction with the county will continue to be available.

“If you think about how much it costs to be unprepared, the cost of being prepared is very minor,” he said. “We could not be more proud of the City of Sparks and the City of Reno and all the businesses who took it seriously and made the necessary preparations.”
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