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    Nevada Guard’s flood response proves historic

    Nevada Guard’s flood response proves historic

    Photo By 2nd Lt. Emerson Marcus | A traffic barrier stops vehicles from driving through flood water in Lemmon Valley,...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Marcus 

    Nevada Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

    LEMMON VALLEY, Nev. — With unseasonably warm temperatures in the mid-70s and clear, blue skies prevailing during much of March, the weather in this neighborhood about 10 miles north of Reno seemed better suited for a paradise than a flood scene.

    But appearances were deceiving.

    For three weeks this month, Nevada National Guard Soldiers and Airmen activated for its largest domestic operation in response to a natural disaster in 20 years as about 140 Soldiers and Airmen moved sandbags for residences and equipment for the construction of a 4-mile HESCO wall — a 4-foot-tall barrier supported by 12,000 yards of sand — in an attempt to alleviate flood damage.

    Even with idyllic weather during most of the flood response, more flooding remains inevitable.

    That’s because a record-setting winter dumped massive amounts of snow in the nearby Sierra and swelled reservoirs. The snow-water equivalent — depth of water in the mountain snow — measured nearly twice the average rate during the latest reading on March 1.

    Meanwhile, the foothills and valleys east of the Sierra broke the total annual rainfall record only four months into the water season, measured October through September each year. Those records date back more than century.

    Flooding in the region began in December and portions of the Truckee River in Reno and Sparks flooded in January. The Nevada National Guard responded to several incidents, including areas along the river and Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, where flooding damaged water pipes and left rural communities without potable water.

    “The magnitude of the response and the way Soldiers and Airmen answered the call on short notice truly shows the Nevada Guard’s dedication to its state,” said Brig. Gen. Zachary Doser, Director Joint Staff, Nevada National Guard. “This response will help the citizens of Lemmon Valley. The Guard remains ready to respond to future domestic operations in the face of more potential floods in the region.”

    The Truckee River's levels temporarily subsided after it crested in January, but it became apparent some areas in the region would be prone to snowmelt and rising water as spring began.

    No location has experienced more standing water near residences than Lemmon Valley.

    Swan Lake — dry during five years of drought before this winter — overflowed and contaminated water sources. Forty-eight homes experienced flood damage and 13 homes were evacuated, according to Washoe County incident reports released last week. More than 300 homes remain in potential flood danger.

    On Feb. 17, President Donald Trump approved Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s request for a major disaster declaration for northern Nevada. In addition to Washoe County, the declaration includes Elko, Humboldt and Douglas counties, as well as the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. That declaration received an extension through March.

    The state of Nevada called the National Guard to duty for support at Lemmon Valley in early March. By mid-March, those activations included about 140 Soldiers and Airmen for the entire operation, even larger than activations for the region’s wildfires during the drought years.

    Working the $3.5 million flood response effort with several agencies — including the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District, Nevada Division of Forestry and Division of Emergency Management — the Nevada National Guard helped deploy one million sandbags and construct the four miles of HESCO wall. Officials estimate snow runoff will raise water levels about 2 feet. The barrier was designed to contain up to 4 feet of additional water.

    “We do not expect a rapid rise in water level that the temporary barrier cannot hold,” said Sam Hicks, the incident command chief for the Lemmon Valley flood.

    The vast majority of the Soldiers and Airmen activated were “traditional” Guardsmen who work one weekend a month and two weeks each year.

    Spc. Robert Baker, one of four Nevada Army Guard Soldiers who represented Nevada in the Chief of the National Guard Biathlon championships in Vermont earlier this month, received an email just as he boarded his Reno return flight March 9 that sought volunteers for the Lemmon Valley flood response.

    For several days after his cross-country flight, Baker transported sandbags on 12-hour shifts in Lemmon Valley.

    “It’s definitely feels like a very long week, but it’s worth it to help people in the community,” Baker said.

    Most of the Soldiers working in Lemmon Valley hailed from the Nevada Army Guard’s 1859th Transportation Company, 609th Engineers, 485th Military Police Company and the 150th Maintenance Company. The activated Airmen represented the 152nd Security Forces and 152nd Civil Engineer squadrons.

    “I found out about the activation last night,” Staff Sgt. Jose Gutierrez, of the 152nd, said March 13. “They basically asked if I would be available to come out if need be, but a few hours later I was told to come.”

    Gutierrez, a full-time criminal justice student at the University of Nevada, Reno, said his professors understood why he might miss class as he works checkpoints to deter potential looters from stealing possessions left in abandoned homes.

    “As soon as I let them know I was activated for a state emergency, they were very understanding,” he said. “It’s not fair what’s happening to these people. Being out here to help is the least we can do.”

    The Nevada National Guard began the drawdown of members on state activation last week.



    Date Taken: 03.27.2017
    Date Posted: 03.27.2017 13:49
    Story ID: 228172
    Location: LEMMON VALLEY, NV, US 

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