Pyramid Lake Highways Damaged By Heavy Storm Runoff
State Route 446, between Nixon and Sutcliffe could be closed for up to six weeks, after heavy storm runoff washed out large sections of the highway. The water sliced the road in two, south of the Pyramid Highway, leaving it completely impassable.
State Route 446, between Nixon and Sutcliffe could be closed for up to six weeks, after heavy storm runoff washed out large sections of the highway. The water sliced the road in two, south of the Pyramid Highway, leaving it completely impassable. A few miles south, about 75 feet of asphalt was wiped out, with more than 300 feet of dirt below the highway.
"This is a lot more devastation that we initially anticipated," Don Pelt, Emergency Response Coordinator for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe said.
"We have large chunks of roadway and drainage features, just flat-out gone, disappeared," Thor Dyson, Nevada Department of Transportation's District Engineer for northern Nevada said.
To make matters worse, Sutcliffe residents have lost their water and sewer systems, and about 650 residents are without power.
"All of the residents in Sutcliffe have no water and I'm being told that even if they get water coming out of their faucets, do not use it," Pelt said. "It could be contaminated, not even to bathe in it, not to boil it."
Sutcliffe is still recovering from the Tule Fire that swept through the Pyramid Lake area from late July to early August. The burn area is a concern during the heavy winter storms, but it has held up well, so far.
"We didn't lose any homes to flooding during that," Pelt said. "We are still extremely concerned that this isn't over. That with that burn scar, we could still have landslides, we could still have flash-flooding."
The damaged highway is causing issues for residents who have to go between Sutcliffe and Nixon, including emergency services.
"It's making it difficult for our residents to get to our tribal offices and things in Nixon," Pelt said. "We're staging ambulances for the tribe in Sutcliffe and in Wadsworth, so that either side of the incident, we can get to people quickly, as well as fire apparatus and law enforcement,"
Dyson is hoping to re-open the road in less than three weeks, though it may take much longer.
"There are people out there that depend on taking care of their livestock, getting to medical facilities, being able to shop, commute to work, so it's important," Dyson said.
The water carved out large sections of earth, creating a canyon and even a new beach down below. There are 48-inch culverts that lay at the bottom of the wash, crumpled up like tin cans.
"The water was just incredibly fast, furious, and dangerous," Dyson said "We're going to get that road open as quick as we can but the force of Mother Nature, the volume of water was incredible."
NDOT has secured emergency funding to repair the road, which could begin immediately, depending on weather and more storm runoff.
"The contractor will be directed to bring in heavy equipment, large amounts of quantity of dirt, material and plant mix, and then of course, new pipe to replace the old pipe," Dyson said.
The Red Cross and the Emergency Operations Center are helping residents who have been impacted by the storm, including providing drinking water, food and portable restrooms.