Rains cloud cause flood of problems | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Rains cloud cause flood of problems

If the rain doesn’t stop soon, Donnie Pereira of Supply One expects an influx of customers in need sump pumps.

“It hasn’t happened yet. I have a feeling it’s going to be very soon,” he said Tuesday. “It won’t be very long before people are starting to flood.”

Pereira isn’t expecting a flood the size of the one in January 1997. However, after several days of steady rain at Lake Tahoe, puddles have accumulated in yards and streets. Many property owners soon could have water coming into their garages or up next to their homes – if that hasn’t happened already.

Because of the sloping land inside the Tahoe Basin, hard rains can lead to limited flooding. If it snows prior to raining, gutters and trenches that filter stormwater can get clogged with ice, compounding the runoff problems. Water runs down streets, often flowing onto driveways and people’s properties.

The biggest victims are people who have property at the low areas in neighborhoods, or property owners whose driveways slope down from the road into their garages.

Ron Popeney of D and L Paving said he sees properties often which aren’t equipped to handle water runoff.

“It’s a lot of people’s problem. Buyer, beware,” he said. “Take a good look at that when you’re buying a house up here.”

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has what it calls Best Management Practices that will eventually have to be installed on all public and private properties at Tahoe. BMPs are designed, among other things, to control stormwater runoff on a property, with sloping driveways, gravel infiltration ditches and trenches that catch water as it falls off a roof.

The idea is that each property should control whatever rain or snow falls there. If up-slope properties can contain runoff, down-slope ones won’t have to handle as much flowing water.

Matt Graham of TRPA said resolving the problem is the responsibility of the homeowners and the counties. Installing BMPs is necessary, but road improvements – such as drop-inlets, curbs and gutters – are also necessary.

“I don’t know if I would say (the problem) is common, but I’ve looked at properties where this happens, particularly older homes that were built in the ’70s or before,” Graham said. “They weren’t looking at drainage then. Now, one of the first things we look for (before approving a project) is what BMPs are needed.”

Jay Kehne of the Natural Resources Conservation Service said he often sees Tahoe houses with flood problems.

“I just got back from a little drive,” Kehne said. “I saw a bunch of that in neighborhoods around town.”

Kehne said a property owner may not be able to see a lot of difference in a neighborhood after installing BMPs. However, the cumulative impact of many homes doing the work will help significantly.

Kehne himself started installing BMPs on his South Shore home last summer. He wasn’t having the problem with significant amounts of water coming onto his property; however, the BMPs now contain the runoff there so it doesn’t exacerbate flooding problems elsewhere in the neighborhood.

“It’s not solving any flood problems I’ve had, but it’s definitely keeping runoff from going into the street,” he said.

D and L Paving’s Popeney and Supply One’s Pereira both said they don’t think it has rained enough yet to cause serious problems.

South Lake Tahoe residents Linda and Bruce Lindahl bought a house in May 1998, and the first storm thereafter turned their yard into a pond. The recent rains would have done the same, Bruce Lindahl said, if they hadn’t installed about $2,500 worth of BMPs: building a paved driveway, installing rock-lined trenches to catch water, raising the grade of the front yard and more.

“Thank God it worked,” he said. “The water’s going right around my house. The problem is it’s going to my neighbor’s house now.

“I’ve retained all my stuff, and I’m not contributing to the problem at all. That’s the best part for me,” he added. “Unfortunately, all the water going around me is other people’s water that hasn’t been retained on their property. And now it’s my neighbor’s problem.”

Oasis Aviation at the Lake Tahoe Airport reported that from Friday through Monday 1.89 inches of water had come from the rain and snow. And it rained most of the day Tuesday. Snow had been falling at the higher elevations.

Al Cox, weather service specialist for the National Weather Service, said the snow level likely would fall to about 6,500 feet today. Lake level is about 6,200 feet.

The weather is supposed to be cooler Thursday and Friday, with chances of snow.

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