RENO, Nev. (AP) — Hundreds of homes were evacuated in northern Nevada as part of a massive winter storm that could be the biggest to slam the region in more than a decade.
Forecasters warned a second storm is expected to hit the already drenched area Monday night.
In Nevada, emergency officials voluntarily evacuated a total of 400 homes affecting about 1,300 residents in a south Reno neighborhood Sunday afternoon as the Truckee River began to leave its banks and drainage ditches started to overflow south of U.S. Interstate 80.
No injuries had been reported, but high waters forced the closure of numerous area roads, a series of bridges in downtown Reno and a pair of Interstate 80 off-ramps in neighboring Sparks, where the worst flooding is expected to send several feet of water early Monday into an industrial area where 25,000 people work.
Bob Elsen of Sparks said he saw plenty of wet weather in his former hometown of Bremerton, Washington, but he didn’t expect it in Nevada’s high desert where only 8 inches of precipitation falls annually on average.
“I don’t think I’ve seen this much rain since I moved here six years ago,” Elsen said as he watched the Truckee River’s waters rise in Sparks. “It’s why I moved out of Washington to get away from this stuff.”
An avalanche also closed a portion of the Mount Rose Highway connecting Reno to Lake Tahoe for the second time in three days after more than 6 feet of snow fell atop the Sierra last week.
Schools were ordered closed Monday throughout the Reno-Sparks area. Gov. Brian Sandoval — who declared a state of emergency on Saturday — told all non-essential state employees to stay home Monday.
“All first responders are all hands on deck,” Washoe County Emergency Manager Aaron Kenneston told reporters at a briefing in Reno Sunday afternoon.
Bob Leighton, the Reno Fire Department’s chief of emergency operations, called it “a very dynamic situation that’s happening so fast it’s hard to keep up with the road closures.”
The storm surge stretching all the way from Hawaii — called an atmospheric river — comes as California enters its sixth year of drought. Each drop of rain is welcomed, but officials said several more big storms are needed to replenish depleted groundwater supplies.