It Rains in Las Vegas?

This is the desert!  You are correct that we don’t exactly break records for our regular annual rainfall of about 4 inches.  We really do have lots of rain occasionally, and spotty.  We even have flooding.  We have always had flooding from before I lived here even.  Some of the major roads originally were planned as washes.  Our ground with its caliche and hardpan does not absorb a lot of rain quickly.  So instead, the water runs for the washes.  I moved her about 20 years ago.  At that time, the regular culprit was the Charleston underpass.  The road left road level and dipped down below the railroad bridge.  The water would rise as high as the railroad bridge structure.  At some point during that era, the control district came up with the saying “Turn around, don’t drown!”

In 1997, we had a whole bunch of family visiting, including my nephew who was an unaccompanied minor to be picked up by my mother-in-law.  The problem, it rained and flooded Las Vegas big time.  I lived in the northwest area of town and the airport was on the south end of town.  The rain started in the morning.  I was in the southwest area of town.  I start heading north and come upon a well running river coming down Sahara.  I am in a nice high clearance vehicle (Expedition).  I decide to drive west “up” Sahara to find an easier place to cross.  Eventually I choose to float through the corner gas station and eventually make it back to my house.  But wait! The nephew hasn’t landed yet and we still have to go get him.  The rain is still coming down and pictures are all over the news showing the flooding all around town.  Well, my husband works right down near the airport.  Certainly the airline will let us change who is picking up the unaccompanied minor child-right?  Wrong!  After explaining the situation to the customer service lady for the airline, she says, “It doesn’t flood in Las Vegas, no you cannot change who is picking up the unaccompanied minor.”  I hope she at least felt bad when she saw the pictures of Las Vegas flooded on the tv that night.

In 2003, I was once again down toward the southwest part of town out with a group of friends.  There happened to be tv monitors where we were eating.  We are watching and you will never guess-it is flooding up in the northwest part of town where I live.  We wait for the rain to slow down and figure the flooding will be improved by the time we get to that area.  Who knew?  I had to re-route my drive home a few times, but made it.  What made it onto tv that night was the fact that while a fire truck was out rescuing people, it got stalled in one of the flooded intersections and the firemen had to be rescued.  That was only the northwest part of town though.

During the summer of 2013, we had the Carpenter 1 fire on Mt. Charleston.  As a result of all of that vegetation, roads, and dirt washed away, there is nothing to slow down the water when it rains on the mountain.  There is a new natural wash coming the down the mountain at the edge of the housing developments that crosses Hwy. 95 and continues through a couple more developments and then lands on Grand Teton (up in the northwest).  It proceeded down Grand Teton where it pooled in the lowlands of the orchard, undeveloped intersection corners and some larger single homes.  It rained so much and frequently in early fall of 2013, that the water did just that.  The flooded area was probably about 4 blocks wide and 8 blocks long.  Getting home from work during that time was really challenging, as I kept having to turn around and try and different street.  A few schools were closed for a day or two and creative bussing routes were employed the rest of the time. This area will no longer be a problem at all in the future.  New underground infrastructure is being put in place and the undeveloped corner is now developed.

So let’s jump forward by a year. In 2014, the Carpenter 1 fire is still causing flood problems.  In Las Vegas, we only have two major highways that carry us out of town in four major directions.  Those are Hwy. 95 going north and south (technically west and east) and Interstate 15 going north and south (slightly east and more west).  So a major rainstorm occurs up on the mountain and the water starts flowing and is flowing so hard, it washes 2 cars into the median and floats them down the median toward a large concrete drain.  A couple of passing airmen from Creech stop to help the old couple out of one of the cars.  Ironically a couple of days later I stop for a late bite to eat at a fast food joint.  An airman is buying food and asks the clerk how often Hwy. 95 is closed due to flooding.  The clerk is clueless.  So I jump in and offer up that it was a total fluke-never happened before and will never happen again.  I have been told to never say never!  Within days, there is so much rain coming down on Interstate 15 to the northeast of Vegas by an hour or two, that Interstate 15 gets totally washed out on one side and slightly washed out on the other side.  So 15 has to be totally shut down for a few days until it can be repaired and re-opened.  I am so happy I did not have to use the much longer detour with all of the semi trucks. Out west, in the middle of nowhere, detours are out of the way and take a lot longer.  Up beyond the closed section, 15 runs through a canyon in the northwest corner of Arizona for about 20 miles.  People who were traveling through the canyon at the time of all of the rain took absolutely unbelievable videos of waterfalls in the canyon-waterfalls that don’t ever exist in the canyon at any other time.These waterfalls just poured down the rocks and onto the highway , then ran down whatever lowest points existed on or near the roadway.

So we get the monsoons rolling through in late summer and we occasionally get the tail end of a hurricane in its very weakened on land stage. Now at almost the end of September, we should not be seeing monsoons, and I am not so sure we should be seeing the leftovers of hurricanes.  Today though they predicted rain.  I work in a school library with a 20 foot high metal roof.  When it rains, we all hear it.  During the last class of the day, we heard it coming through in short spurts of downpour.  School dismissed with very few drops and the sun hiding behind the the clouds.  I stayed to make an honest effort at getting caught up on so many things.  I am sitting there and hearing waves of rain coming and going on the metal roof.  Then I am hearing some of the most active thunder I have ever heard.  I actually had flashbacks of the movie Mad Max or some of those apocalyptic movies where it thunders, lightens and rains constantly.  It starts pouring so hard, it is time for a break.  The custodian and I go stand by the front door to observe what truly looked like a hurricane with the rain coming down at a sharp angle.  Safekey pick up must have been really interesting, since he said we now had a collection of broken umbrellas, because of the wind.  But that was only the Aliante area.  Hardly any rain where I live.  A different area of town had wind up to 83mph that took out about 13 trees at one apartment complex.

So what is my point?  I love weather-I actually get excited about it.  Does it rain in Las Vegas?  The answer my friends is blowing in the wind!  I couldn’t help myself.  Yes, it does rain in Vegas.  Not much, but sometimes just enough to keep things interesting.

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