Heavy rainfall is expected to raise the Truckee River from 9 feet to as much as 22 feet by Sunday, putting much of the Sparks industrial area in potential flooding territory. County and city leaders joined regional law enforcement and emergency strategists at the Regional Emergency Operations Center in Reno, addressing concerns and offering advice for the weekend.
“At times like this, the message we are trying to send is if citizens and business owners faced flooding in 1997 or 2005, you should take prudent measures because there is a strong likelihood you will have water on your property,” Aaron Kenneston, Washoe County emergency manager, said.
The National Weather Service has issued flood and high-wind warnings for Washoe County throughout the weekend, and meteorologist Mark Deutschendorf said low pressure coming from the West coast brought heavy rain Friday and will bring even more beginning Saturday night.
“The rain Saturday night could go into Sunday afternoon and that will be the final heavy spurt from this storm,” Deutschendorf said Friday via phone from the Reno-Tahoe Airport. “We can expect the highest wind to come in just before the heavy rain because that rain will lower the wind speed a bit. By Sunday we should see more rain than wind.”
The National Weather Service River Forecast Center reported Friday evening the river will hit flood stage at about 2 p.m. Sunday, according to Washoe County Public Information Officer Nancy Leuenhagen. Its peak will come at 9 p.m. Sunday evening, leaving the river at about 19 feet high.
The City of Sparks finalized its 11 sandbag stations throughout the city Friday providing heaps of dirt and bags for filling. Businesses in the Sparks industrial area, which ranges south of Interstate 80, north of the Truckee River, between Vista Boulevard on the east and US 395 on the west, were utilizing several of the locations Friday.
Sparks Mayor Geno Martini said this event will show contrast to the 2005 flood due to the city and county being better prepared to handle the outcome.
“I think the best thing we have done is we have started much much earlier than 2005,” Martini said. “We put our emergency plan into effect immediately, put our team together and strategized what we wanted to do based on what we thought would happen. We are way ahead of the curve from 2005.”
Martini said effective planning ahead of the flood, and executing during the predicted event, amounts to collaboration among all agencies across the county. He said emergency situations leave no room for politics, only protecting the community as a whole.
“I think it is important because whatever affects Sparks affects Reno and the county too,” Martini said. “We always have arguments between the governments, but when it is a time of emergency we always stand up and we always come together, and this is a perfect example. If Sparks gets flooded there are people who work in our industrial area that live in Reno and other parts of Washoe County. It definitely affects them like it does the people in Sparks.”
Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Armando Avina said roadways will be a major cause for concern in the region during the weekend. He said regular patrol will continue during the weekend, but any emergency calls will place added stress on all law enforcement departments.
“It is going to be business as usual, but what we see during these times are people who should stay indoors and stay off the roadways,” Avina said. “There is going to be water on the roadways and debris on some of them from the wind, so distracted driving and impaired driving needs to be avoided.
"Local law enforcement agencies will be enforcing traffic laws and responding to calls from the flooding, just understand that this does put extra stress on our law enforcement agencies. There will be several accidents to respond to.”
Avina said any accidents or hazards on the roadways should be reported immediately to local law enforcement. He added that flooded roads also provide visibility hazards for what lies underneath and said citizens should not be walking or driving on flooded roads.
County Commission Chairman Bob Larkin said though the region has experienced a flood previously, all areas must be on alert. He said no two floods share an identity and heading for “higher ground” should be on everyone’s mind.
“Each one of these storms is separate, distinct, has its own character and personality. Be cautious because these are not recurring events. Different areas can be flooded and any standing water should be avoided,” Larkin said. “The area and the soil is going to become very saturated and some of the areas that were previously not flood prone, may become flood prone, including Steamboat Creek, the Sparks industrial area and some of the outlying areas such as Spanish Springs and the North Valleys.”
To find locations of sandbag stations or more information on flood operations, safety tips and potential hazards you can visit www.cityofsparks.us, call at 353-5555 or visit www.washoecounty.us.