Rain and melting snow swamped Nevada on Saturday, causing the worst flooding in the Reno area since a January 1997 flood that caused $1 billion in damages.
Mudslides closed major roads, including Interstate 80 about 25
miles west of Reno and Highway 89 near Truckee, Calif.
I-80 - the major corridor linking northern California and points
east - was expected to remain closed for at least two days, said
California Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Dinger.
Six truck rigs were caught in the I-80 mudslide early Saturday,
but no injuries were reported. It will cost about $5 million to
clean up the slide, officials said.
"No work can be done until the slide stabilizes and we don't
know when that will occur," Dinger said. "Certainly, I-80 could
be closed for longer than two days.
"We've had minor slides in that area but nothing of this
magnitude," he said.
Up to 1-2 inches of rain on valley floors and 6-8 inches of rain
in the Lake Tahoe area prompted flood warnings along the eastern
The Truckee River swamped the basements of the Washoe County
Courthouse Annex and Masonic Lodge in downtown Reno, and an
undetermined number of businesses downstream in the Sparks
Industrial Park, officials said.
While Reno casinos remained open Saturday, all four Truckee
bridges in the downtown were closed.
The Truckee was expected to crest early Saturday afternoon in
downtown Reno at 13 feet, 2 feet above flood stage. Just to the
east in Sparks, it was expected to crest at 22 feet, 7 feet above
While those levels are near those of the 1997 New Year's Day
flood, officials stressed water flows will be substantially less
because upstream reservoirs are well below capacity.
"We're hoping the snow level falls and the situation doesn't
turn out as bad as projected," Frady said. "But there are
businesses sandbagging right now to prepare for the worst."
Crews were working to prevent trees and other debris from
blocking the river's flow under the downtown Reno bridges.
"I'm impressed with the power of it," Cas Champion, 68, of
Reno, said as he watched the Truckee lap the Virginia Street
bridge. "It's like the ocean when you have a big surge of water
and you can't do anything about it. You go with the flow and go to
Crews also were trying to prevent the Reno Hilton's huge outdoor
pond from overflowing onto nearby runways of Reno-Tahoe
International Airport. The 1997 flood shut down the airport.
"That's been a top priority," Frady said. "It's really
critical to keep the airport open, especially if we end up with a
two-day closure of I-80."
Rising waters along the Truckee and Carson rivers prompted
evacuations of at least five mobile home parks in the Reno-Carson
Heavy rain also shut down the southbound lanes of U.S. 395 just
south of Reno.
In Carson City, officials were hoping to avert mudslides in the
Waterfall Fire area where 8,700 acres were scorched and 17 homes
were destroyed in July 2004.
"We saw a little bit of mud, a few small boulders," Carson
Mayor Marv Teixeira said, but so far no major slides. "Obviously,
we are watching that area very closely."
A few homes in the area were evacuated Saturday morning.
"The water just started coming up really, really high,"
In downtown Carson City, storm drains couldn't keep up with the
heavy rain, causing flooding in low-lying areas such as U.S. 395 by
the Carson Mall.
In Douglas County, officials reported small mud or rock slides
but no major problems.
Also in Douglas, standing water closed Genoa, Mottsville,
Centerville and Muller lanes between U.S. 395 and Foothill Road.