Monthly Archives: January 2017

More changes to drought map for CA and NV

Drought Monitor map for the Western US last week of January 2017

La Niña hasn’t lived up to its reputation for 2016-17 any more than El Niño lived up it its reputation for 2015-16 a year ago. The much-anticipated “super” wet weather for last winter didn’t happen and the “drier” weather seen in early winter this year turned much wetter. The latest drought map from the Drought Monitor folks shows that exceptional  drought has disappeared from the California map entirely and extreme drought has shrunk to a small area of southwest coastal California. Drought has retreated in Nevada as well. [See previous drought posts here and here.]

Drought Monitor map for the Western US last week of January 2017

Drought Monitor map for the Western US last week of January 2017 (click for large version)

Abnormal, moderate and severe drought still dominate southern California. Drought colors have disappeared from northern California and most of northern Nevada. Abnormal and moderate drought show up only in southwestern Nevada and a small part in far northwestern Nevada extending into southeastern Oregon.

Currently snowpack in the central Sierra is running close to 200% (double the 30 year average). The remainder of the winter, however, will determine just how well runoff will help fill lakes and rivers in the coming months. A dry winter from here on out could result in a just “average” runoff year while an average winter through the April 1 final measurement could see much better stream flow and reservoir storage for the remainder of 2017.

The implications of a much above average winter could have many beneficial effects for the Truckee River with enhanced stream flows, improvements to the riparian corridor with new trees and shrubs, and an infusion of much-needed water for Pyramid Lake. The next few weeks of winter will tell us whether we have double average runoff or just run-of-the-mill runoff.

The water surface elevation of Pyramid Lake fell 27 feet since 2000.

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Brodhead Park east end goes to Riverside Park Apartments LLC

Brodhead Park is on the left side this image taken from the "old" Wells Ave bridge.
The Reno City Council unanimously approved using a 10,660 square foot portion of Brodhead Park adjacent to the Truckee River for an apartment complex (see our earlier post with maps and photos here). Below is today’s announcement from the City of Reno.

“Council approves Brodhead Park Boundary Line Adjustment and Improvement Agreement

J.10.1 – Council unanimously approved a Boundary Line Adjustment and Improvement Agreement to convey a vacant and undevelopable 10,660-square-foot portion of Brodhead Park between Wells Avenue and Park Street south of the Truckee River Bike Path to developer Riverside Park Apartments LLC, an affiliate of Hokulia Holdings LLC. The agreement requires the developer to use the property only for an infill apartment complex and convey to the City a 1,868-square-foot parcel adjacent to the Truckee River Bike Path and spend up to $75,000 for trailhead and bike path improvements.”

– January 25, 2017 Reno City Council Highlights 

Brodhead Park is on the left side this image taken from the "old" Wells Ave bridge.

Brodhead Park is on the left side this image taken from the “old” Wells Ave bridge.

Overhead view of property (right-most parcel outlined in black-white) to be transferred to developers for a new apartment complex.

Overhead view of property (right-most parcel outlined in black-white) to be transferred to developers for a new apartment complex.

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California & Nevada Drought map has changed

The storms that have hit northern California and Nevada during the last 6 weeks have changed the drought map dramatically from earlier in the winter. Rain in northern California has filled reservoirs and sent rivers flooding for the first time since 2005 in several areas in both northern California and Nevada – including the Truckee River here in Reno and Sparks.

Hunter Creek flooding into the Truckee River at Mayberry foot bridge.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported today that the drought in northern California is officially over. The categories “severe”, “extreme”, and “exceptional” drought, however, persist in southern California according to the US Drought Monitor. Parts of western Nevada still have persistent drought but in the lower drought categories of “Abnormally Dry” and “Moderate”.  Storms categorized as “Atmospheric rivers” that bring sub-tropical moisture to the west coast appear responsible for the intense rain storms that have changed the outlook in northern California and Nevada.

Drought Monitor Map as of 1-13-2017 (drought_monitor-20170110_west_trd)

While the picture can change again at a moments notice, there is still a chance that additional storms will keep the region ahead in precipitation for the entire water year and bring a partial respite from the effect of a persistent drought pattern that began in 2000. [The water year runs from October 1 to September 30.]

On December 1, 2016 Lake Tahoe was below its rim by 3″ even after a wetter than average October. No water had flowed to the Truckee River from Lake Tahoe since September 13th. Today, Lake Tahoe has risen to 8″ above its rim with the Truckee River flowing at 26 CFS (cubic feet per second). Natural outflow from the Lake could be greater than 26 CFS since the Lake Tahoe dam at the outlet of Lake Tahoe controls the flow of the river according to the Truckee River Operating Agreement. Flows from the two rainstorms that pushed the Truckee River above flood stage in Reno and Sparks and all the way to Pyramid Lake will have a substantial benefit to the overall health of the river. The long warning period (at least 4 days ahead of the event) that residents and businesses received were responsible for minimizing the damage to buildings and homes.

Truckee River at Rock Park in Sparks (flow is around 1,100 CFS)

Truckee River at Rock Park in Sparks (flow is around 1,100 CFS)

Comparing December 1, 2016 to January 13, 2017 for a few sites at Lake Tahoe shows just how quickly a few storms have changed the picture at this point in the winter.

Location

12/01/16

01/13/17

Lake Tahoe water surface elevation

6222.74

6223.66

0.92 ft rise

Truckee River Flow at Reno (changes daily)

247 CFS

1,590 CFS

Truckee River Flow at Tracy (changes daily)

296 CFS

2,420 CFS

Truckee River Flow at Pyramid Lake (changes daily)

112 CFS

3,350 CFS

Ward Creek SNOTEL site (848) at 6745 ft: Snow water equivalent in snowpack

4.5 inches

136%

25.5 inches

189%

Ward Creek SNOTEL site (848) at 6745 ft: Snowpack depth

24 inches

93 inches

Ward Creek SNOTEL site (848) at 6745 ft: Total precipitation

25.8inches

194%

72.4

243%

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Snow water equivalent in snowpack

4.2 inches

81%

40.4 inches

246%

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Snowpack depth

22 inches

153 inches

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Total precipitation

17.6 inches

193%

49.3 inches

219%

Truckee River outlet at Lake Tahoe below its rim in fall of 2015 - 2015-02-16

Truckee River outlet with Lake Tahoe below its rim in 2015-02-16

Lake Tahoe Dam at the outlet to the Truckee River February 2015

Lake Tahoe Dam at the outlet to the Truckee River February 2015

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Truckee River Flood Crest Reached in Truckee Meadows

Truckee River along the “crooked mile” west of Idlewild Park in Reno.

Flood waters in the Truckee River appear to have crested in downtown Reno earlier this morning (1-9-2017). The Vista Gauge¹ in east Truckee Meadows shows the river just reached its crest and is falling. Flood waters are continuing to rise, however, further downstream at Wadsworth and Nixon, right at Pyramid Lake.

The flood water crest is gradually moving downstream as the rain in the mountains lessens and temperatures drop. The three graphs show the Reno, Vista and Nixon Gauges. Nixon is more than 40 miles downstream of Vista.

Flood crest is past in downtown Reno. (click for full size)

Truckee River flood crest reached with decline beginning early morning of 1-9-2017. (click for full size)

Truckee River is still rising at Nixon on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation early on 1-9-2017. (click for full size)

The storm did not appear to be quite as strong as forecast and the flood peaks in downtown Reno and Vista were slightly lower than forecast, but still the first significant flooding event in the Truckee Meadows since 2005.

¹[The Reno Gauge is located just downstream of the Sutro Street Bridge; the Vista Gauge is located at the Reno-Sparks Waste Water Treatment Plant. All Truckee River gauges are operated by the US Geological Survey and run continuously reporting river flow.]

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Washoe County prepares for flooding

Flooding due to the approach of a warm storm system forecast to bring rain to the Sierra and western Nevada is forecast for the upcoming weekend. The map below shows potential flood areas where the red indicates worse flooding and yellow moderate flooding. Flooding is expected in downtown Reno, but the greatest potential for loss will be in the Sparks industrial area east of McCarran Boulevard to Vista and southward to Rattlesnake Mountain. The SE Connector Road construction adds an unknown dynamic to the potential flooding so residents and businesses should take every precaution. The Cities of Reno and Sparks are urging people to stay away from the areas should flooding occur.

See the Truckee Meadows Flood Management Authority’s website for the latest information.

Flood potential for weekend storm (click for full size)

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Snowpack increases; wet storms forecast

Tundra Swans fly over the Truckee River at Pyramid Lake January 1, 2017.

2017 opened to cold temperatures followed by rain and today the first significant snow in Reno this winter. Since the beginning of the stormy weather here in the central Sierra surrounding Lake Tahoe, snowpack has gone from well below the 1981-2010 average to now above that 30 year average. Total precipitation, however, continues above average since October with at least one station around Tahoe currently reporting  greater than 170% of average.

The National Weather Service is forecasting more rain for lower elevations and snow in higher areas of the Sierra. “Heavy rain” is in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday for Reno.

Reno Forecast for Jan 7 to 9, 2017

Reno Forecast for Jan 7 to 9, 2017

Currently there are concerns about flooding on the Truckee River through the Truckee Meadows although flooding is expected to be only moderate perhaps similar to that experienced in 2005. Hopefully, damages will be minimal. While the community completed a flood management project proposal prior to 2005, it has still not been implemented in the Truckee Meadows.

The impact of heavy mountain snow and rain in lower elevations increases the likelihood that the Truckee River may see moderate flooding all the way to Pyramid Lake. Such an event should have a significant positive effect on the river environment by helping to restore meanders and provide new or rearranged gravel bars for seedlings of cottonwood, willow, and alder trees to become established. Areas that have been restored by the Nature Conservancy downstream of the Truckee Meadows using federal funding (think – Lockwood to the McCarran Ranch) could see even more benefits from high water that spills onto the restored flood plain.

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it helps get the Truckee River up to and beyond its long term average flow for 2017. [Typically, the western water year is measured from October 1 to September 30; so the first full month of fall kicks off the water year.]

So here’s where we are today (January 5, 2017) with Lake Tahoe water level, Truckee River flows at 3 locations (taken early morning), and snowpack measurements and annual precipitation at 2 locations.  We’ll look again after the approaching storm is over next week.  [CFS stands for cubic feet per second and the percent of average is compared to the 30 year period from 1981-2010. “Snow water equivalent” measures the amount of water in a column of snow. “Total precipitation” is all rain and water content of snowfall, etc.]

Lake Tahoe water elevation

6223.68

8.2″ above rim

Truckee River Flow at Reno (changes daily)

722 CFS

Truckee River Flow at Tracy (changes daily)

1,480 CFS

Truckee River Flow at Pyramid Lake

1,360 CFS

Ward Creek site (848) at 6745 ft: Snow water equivalent in snowpack

13.3 inches

112% ave

Ward Creek site (848) at 6745 ft: Snowpack depth

72 inches

Ward Creek site (848) at 6745 ft: Total precipitation

48.4 inches

175% ave

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Snow water equivalent in snowpack

22.6 inches

154% ave

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Snowpack depth

103 inches

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Total precipitation

29.7 inches

143% ave

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

Truckee River at Rock Park in Sparks (flow is around 1,100 CFS)

Truckee River at Rock Park in Sparks (flow is around 1,100 CFS) on January 4, 2017.

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