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Storm Runoff is More Damaging in Disturbed Watersheds

TitleStorm Runoff is More Damaging in Disturbed Watersheds
Author/CreatorCobourn, John; Purdy, Shelly; Segale, Heather M.
Related item(s)Press Release available at
Date Original2004-11-16
Summary/DescriptionLake Tahoe Report Segment #92 - "Storm Runoff Damage" (Air Date: November 16, 2004). John Cobourn from UNR Cooperative Extension discusses the long-term impact that wildfires can have on watershed systems, such as causing mudslides.
SubjectRunoff -- Nevada
Watershed management -- Nevada
CollectionThe Lake Tahoe Report
Original PublisherLake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition (
Electronic PublisherUniversity of Nevada, Reno - Department of Teaching and Learning Technologies
Ordering and Permissions InformationFor more information, contact the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, or 775-832-4138.
Date Digital2005-03-14
RelationRequires Windows Media Player
Resource TypeMoving Image
Contributing InstitutionUniversity of Nevada, Reno
TranscriptionSegment 92: Storm Runoff Damage Air Date: November 16, 2004 Anchor Intro: The Waterfall Fire in Carson City this past summer was a devastating blow to not only the community but the Carson City watershed as well. In tonight's Lake Tahoe Report, Shelly Purdy explains the danger residents could now face during the winter months. Take PKG ((Nats Waterfall fire??)) ((Track 1)) The tragedy of a catastrophic fire like this is not just in the homes damaged and lost, not just in the trees burned, firefighters injured or cost of fighting the fire. The catastrophe also lies in what's left after the fire tears through. In this case, a charred landscape with little to no green vegetation left on the ground and a severely damaged watershed. ((sot @ 3:09 John Cobourn, UNR Cooperative Extension)) "Watersheds, of course, are what give us our stream flow. If we have a watershed that is disturbed by paving or some other kind of disturbance maybe logging of if it's been burned, it's going to behave a lot differently than an undisturbed watershed that might have a lot of vegetation in it." ((track 2)) In a natural and undisturbed watershed the trees and other vegetation act like a sponge. During a rain event, their root systems and the duff layer on the ground absorb water and help it soak in. But in a disturbed watershed, there's nothing left on the ground to do that. ((sot @ 4:30)) "In the burned watersheds where we had the big fire in Carson City the Waterfall Fire this summer, the neighborhoods at the foot of Ash Canyon and BC Canyon are at risk for something that could be quite hazardous…a debris flow…where the whole upper watershed could slide down because it doesn't have the vegetation to hold the soil in place." ((nats strong rain fall if you have it)) ((track 3)) This, most likely, could only happen in a major rain on show event during the wintertime or a large thunderstorm with flash flooding during the summertime. The homes at the edge of the watershed are at greatest risk. ((sot @ 4:54)) "There are some neighborhoods and some areas that are at risk for having high velocity debris really like a mudflow with boulders in it that could come down with high velocity into some neighborhoods." ((track 4)) It's a devastating legacy the Waterfall Fire is leaving Carson City. What took flames just days to destroy will take the community years to repair. With the Lake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition, I'm Shelly Purdy for KOLO NC8. Anchor Tag: Carson City officials are currently working with the UNR Cooperative Extension office and the forest service to revegetate the damaged watersheds and protect against mudslides in the Waterfall Fire burn area.

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