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Officials brace for widespread flooding near Reno

By: MARTIN GRIFFITH,Associated Press
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RENO, Nev. (AP) — Gov. Brian Sandoval toured sandbag stations Saturday as officials and residents prepared ahead of a powerful storm that’s stoking fears of widespread flooding in the Reno area.

Officials were bracing for major flooding Sunday morning around Truckee, Calif., and for minor to moderate flooding Sunday and Monday around Reno after the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the length of the Truckee River.

The Truckee, which flows more than 100 miles from Lake Tahoe to Nevada’s Pyramid Lake, was expected to crest above flood stage after heavy rains hit the region Saturday night and Sunday morning. The weather Saturday included high winds that prompted more than a dozen flight cancellations at the Reno airport.

“Looking at the river now, it gives a false sense of security because it looks normal,” city of Sparks spokesman Adam Mayberry told The Associated Press on Saturday night. “It will look like a flash flood (after the heavy rain) because the river will rise rapidly. Water will come into the area very quickly.”

New rainfall amounts are expected to range from 1 to 2 inches around Reno, to 3 to 5 inches around Tahoe. Over the past two or three days, up to 6.41 inches of precipitation has fallen around Tahoe and 1.44 inches of rain has been reported around Reno.

Northern Nevada authorities declared a state of emergency Friday after forecasters said heavy rain and a melting Sierra snowpack would send the Truckee over its banks for the first time since a January 2006 flood.

The snow level was expected to rise as high as 10,000 feet by early Sunday morning and may not fall below 8,000 feet until late Sunday afternoon.

Forecasters were calling for minor flooding in the downtown Reno casino area and for moderate flooding in the nearby Sparks industrial area, whose hundreds of businesses have 20,000 to 25,000 employees.

Among other things, Sandoval was briefed Saturday afternoon on the area’s flood preparation efforts.

Winds of up to 140 mph over the Sierra crest prompted at least 16 flight cancellations and several delays Saturday at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, spokesman Brian Kulpin said.

“That’s all about safety. The airlines make the decision, not the airport,” he said Saturday night. “We can’t do anything about Mother Nature.”

Kulpin urged travelers to check airline websites for the status of flights before heading to the airport on Sunday morning.