Nevada is dry but not immune to flooding

Flood waters rush around a home last summer in the Carson Valley during the floods.

Flood waters rush around a home last summer in the Carson Valley during the floods.

DAYTON — Nevada’s state floodplain manager trotted out this quote Wednesday at a forum here, highlighting it as a misconception regarding the state’s dryness:

“This is the desert; we don’t need no stinking flood insurance.”

Rob Palmer of the state’s Division of Water Resources was preaching to the choir, promoting flood insurance while serving as keynote speaker at a Floodplain Management Forum on Earth Day. He elicited chuckles when he said the word “stinking” isn’t always the modifier used in such misguided jibes.

“We have to stay vigilant; we have to be prepared.” he said, recounting flash floods that can strike during drought. He also said major floods are bound to return due to nature’s dry/wet cyclical pattern. The forum was put on by the Carson Water Subconservancy District and the Carson River Coalition with support from Lyon County, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the state’s Division of Environmental Protection.

There were 50 or more participants in the 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. gathering to discuss floodplain mapping and modeling, risk management and related matters.

Palmer said Nevada, with 9 inches of annual precipitation, is the driest state in the nation and things are particularly dry now in this fourth year of a western drought. He said, however, flash floods aren’t uncommon in such periods. He offered up as an example last year’s flash flood in the Johnson Lane area of Douglas County, where he works, and north of his home community of Minden.

Though he didn’t mention them specifically, there also were flash floods in Carson City last year.

“We’ll probably have some flash flooding this summer,” he predicted.

Palmer also talked of major floods from runoff in years of high precipitation and quick mountain range snow melt, such as the 1997 event that inundated Reno. He said the Reno/Tahoe Airport then was closed for two days and the waters took two lives while wreaking $30 million in property damage havoc. Despite that, he indicated, some people have moved to the state since or the impact has faded with time.

“What tends to happen is you get ‘flood amnesia,’” he said. He said his role is as floodplain manager and overseer of the federal flood insurance program in the state.

“If you’re waiting for disaster assistance to make up your losses,” he said, “it’s not a good bet.”

He said most disaster aid comes in the form of loans that must be repaid.

Other presentations at the forum covered such things as Carson River floodplain management, that watershed’s floodplain modeling and mapping project, the Truckee River flood project, an inundation mapping program, Markleeville Creek restoration, Carson River East Fork projects, Pinenut remapping, Clear Creek projects, the Seckler Shunt and Smelter Creek projects, and the Carson City/Eagle Valley drainage project.


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