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December 22, 2014

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Colder storm blunts Truckee River flood threat

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Associated Press

Traffic moves west along Interstate 80 west of Reno as a heavy, wet storm hits Northern Nevada on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. A powerful storm delivered more snow and less rainfall Sunday to the Sierra than forecast, blunting the flooding danger on the Truckee River in California and Nevada, forecasters said.

Updated Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 | 5:24 p.m.

RENO — After an all-out effort by residents and business owners to prepare for a possible flood on the Truckee River in Nevada and California, the threat was declared over on Sunday afternoon.

A powerful storm delivered more snow and less rainfall Sunday to the Sierra Nevada than forecast, blunting the flood danger on the river, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service lifted all flood warnings on the river and said the river would crest below flood stage around Reno and Truckee, Calif.

Forecasters originally had said major flooding would occur at Truckee and minor to moderate flooding at Reno and Sparks.

"We definitely dodged a bullet on this," forecaster Dawn Fishler said. "We're just lucky that even though we were prepared, we didn't have the worst of it occur."

If a cold front hadn't arrived several hours earlier than expected, Fishler said, the region would have seen 2 to 3 more inches of rain and significant flooding on the Truckee.

The snowpack is able to absorb water for a while, she added, but melts away after a certain amount of rainfall.

On Jan. 1, 1997, a huge Sierra snowpack washed out in heavy, warm rain, causing a major flood on the Truckee that swamped much of Reno, including the downtown casino area. The last major flood on the river was in late December 2005.

In Truckee, 30 miles west of Reno, officials expressed relief after the town of 16,000 received 4 to 5 inches of snow in the morning instead of heavy rain.

"It's very good news for us," Assistant City Manager Alex Terrazas said. "Things are certainly better than they could have been."

Northern Nevada authorities declared a state of emergency Friday after forecasters issued a flood warning for the length of the Truckee. Roads were closed and sandbags were placed outside homes and businesses.

Until the snow let up Sunday afternoon, tire chains were mandatory on all vehicles except four-wheel drives on all three major highways linking the Sacramento and Reno areas: Interstate 80 over Donner Summit, U.S. 50 over Echo Summit and State Highway 88 over Carson Pass.

Rockslides were reported Sunday on Highway 89 near Emerald Bay on Tahoe's west shore and along I-80 west of Reno.

The storm also shut down lifts at many Tahoe-area ski resorts Sunday, including Boreal, Kirkwood, Heavenly, Mt. Rose and Squaw Valley.

According to the weather service, a much weaker system will bring a chance of snow to the Sierra on Tuesday night and Wednesday, then there will be a period of dry weather.

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