New Year’s flood of 1997 was historic | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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New Year’s flood of 1997 was historic

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The New Year’s flood of 1997 put more water into the Upper Truckee River than a 100-year flood would, according to a report released by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency fed data into computer models to determine how much water is produced during a 50 or 100-year flood at 21 streams that flow into Lake Tahoe.

“If we have 10 to 15 years worth of records we can get pretty good accuracy with methods,” said Jim Crompton, a USGS hydrologist. “We put in the biggest flood from every year, which may be quite small in some cases.”



Nevada Department of Transportation asked for and paid for part of the study so it can build roads and bridges that can handle flood waters. Crump said the 1997 flood did not significantly damage NDOT structures.

For the Upper Truckee, which flows into the lake under Highway 50 by the Tahoe Keys, calculations indicate a 100-year flood produces water flows of about 4,600 cubic feet per second. Data collected during the 1997 flood, when warm rain hit a deep snowpack on Jan. 1 and caused a flood, indicate the river flowed almost 5,500 cubic feet per second.



But 1997 was not a banner year for flooding at each stream studied in the survey.

Ward Creek, near Tahoe City, would push 2,800 cubic feet of water into the lake in a 100-year flood. In 1997, its rate topped out just under 2,400 cubic feet per second.

Monitoring at Ward Creek dates back 27 years, while data has been collected at the Upper Truckee for 25 years, Crompton said.

Homes at the Tahoe Keys did flood because of the storm. Other parts of the basin weren’t badly impacted.

“There was some localized flooding, but there wasn’t standing water like there was in Reno,” Crompton said. “The slopes are fairly steep and water tends to run off quite quickly. And the lake was down, whatever flowed into the lake didn’t pose any problem to near-shore structures.”


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