On Sunday, July 22 storm clouds began to build along the Wassuk Range overlooking the communities of Hawthorne and Walker Lake.
By 5 p.m., Mother Nature unleashed the rain and it began to come down in sheets. No light summer sprinkle was in store for Mineral County. Lightning and thunder would join in.
About the time that families began to sit down to enjoy an evening meal, calls began to come into the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office saying at there was water coming through Cory Canyon into the residential area located near that area and traveling down the highway. Within minutes, emergency personnel were dispatched and sites assessed.
Summer flash floods are not uncommon in Mineral County. History has shown over the years that various canyons have absorbed all the water that the soil can handle with afternoon showers and when it can handle no more, the earth gives away to the force of the water. Taking with it – anything in its path. Throughout the week, smaller flash floods had been witnessed throughout the county.
Cory Canyon and residents would receive the brunt of the Sunday’s wrath. Houses were blocked in with mud and debris, road right-of-way’s were washed away, water services knocked out and mud slides stranded people at their homes.
Water caused havoc in Hawthorne, where both Highway 359 and U.S. 95 South were closed due to water and debris over the roadway leaving travelers stranded in town or on the highway.
Nevada Department of Transportation and all county emergency personnel began the process of making sure no one was stranded along the routes and providing aid where needed.
Residents of Barney’s Addition were put on notice that they may need to evacuate if the earth wall, located on Hawthorne Army Depot property, breached behind the housing area. Thankfully, the residents were allowed to stay at their residents as the water receded.
One Mineral County resident found themself stranded in the Cory Canyon area where they had been hiking prior to the flash flood. Finding shelter within the old cabin in that area, they were later rescued by family, Mineral County Search & Rescue and county equipment.
“I am very fortunate to have a very dedicated search and rescue group who will drop everything they are doing and come out on a moment’s notice to lend a hand where needed. No matter what type of weather and for whatever reason. They always step up to the plate so that others may live,” Mineral County Search & Rescue President Glenn Bunch said.
“I would like to commend the responding agencies for all of their great work Sunday night during the actual event,” Mineral County Emergency Management Director Patrick Hughes said. “ From what I observed this is the type of incident that happens so fast that quick and decisive action, and a focus on life safety, on the part of responding agencies, is imperative, and that is exactly what happened.”
Jeff and Donna Matheny located in Cory Canyon were flooded in with mud and debris so deep that it blocked the couple in with 3-4 feet of mud which came around the side of their home. Over 2-feet of mud would be end up in their garage.
Hawthorne Utilities Director Larry Grant explained to the Independent-News, “Six water meters in the Spanish Springs/Cory Canyon area were directly impacted by the flood. The path of the flood went right over them, destroying part of the infrastructure causing a need to shut down the entire area and the issuance of a boil water notice.”
Hawthorne Utilities would work tirelessly on Monday to restore water to each resident. Most were back on line by 10 a.m. but a boil water notice is still in effect and residents in those areas should continue to follow the precautionary measures until the results of the bacterial testing are complete and the notice lifted.
Eric Hamrey, Director of Mineral County Public Works explained that it wasn’t just the roads of Cory that were affected. Roads in Gabbs Valley (near Ormat) were washed out as well as some in Mina.
“The access to Cory Canyon was wiped out as well as the road to Little Huntoon. The main road into Huntoon Valley is passable but the water damage is extensive. The road to Rawhide is washed out on the summit. Lyon County also had damages with Baldwin Canyon being affected as well as Aldrich Grade. Lyon County was working near the “Elbow” which was barely passable on Monday,” he said. “I urge those using the roads to use caution. Public Works crews are continuing to clear debris from local streets. Outlying tons will be cleared as soon as we have available personnel. Please be patient as we continue the cleanup efforts. Questions can be directed to the public works department at 775-945-3897.”
Hamrey went on to give thanks, “A big thanks to Richard Dudley on his assistance from public works for helping search and rescue in assisting/retrieving the folks in Cory Canyon.”
The storm also affected the Hawthorne water system. Grant explained that due to the flooding of the highway, the Whiskey Flats Wells were restricted and the power went down. “We evaluated the need for water use restriction within the Town of Hawthorne [after the flood]. We found it was not necessary for the 24-hour period. Crews were able to make repairs in Cory Canyon and water was restored to all but two homes by 10 a.m. on Monday,” Grant explained.
Hughes explained that after the flood, he was approached by Hawthorne residents who had questions regarding the possibility of evacuations during emergency events. “There are several locations that have been designated for use as a shelter such as the convention center and the high school gymnasium. These locations would be opened in accordance with the disaster at the time of occurrence. One location may be more suitable for a large earthquake event whereas a different location might be more suitable for a flood event. Residents probably noticed the multiple emergency alerts on television over the week of July 21-22. This same method would be used, as well as radio and other methods of communication, to alert residents of Mineral County that their safety and well being is the first priority of responders and their agencies. If folks have questions, my office is located at 525 West 9th Street; drop by any time Monday – Thursday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. I love answering questions and if I don’t have an answer I will do my absolute best to find you an answer. Together we can build a better prepared and more resilient community,” Hughes concluded.
Sheriff Randy Adams, who responded to the flood, told the Independent-News, “The commissioners are aware that we need to do something as a county to prevent the widespread disaster when these events happen.”