View Neighborhood Newspapers looks back at 2013 in the Centennial Hills area.
FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN
Fire and floods are what Centennial Hills residents will remember about 2013: the summer’s massive Carpenter 1 fire on Mount Charleston and the two weeks of monsoon rains that came after, sending ash and soot cascading down the Spring Mountains well beyond Grand Teton Drive.
Firefighters didn’t fully contain the fire until Sept. 17, more than two months after a lightning strike sparked up a fast-growing blaze on the rocky, steep slopes of Carpenter Canyon.
Dry conditions and swirling winds fueled the fire’s rapid growth into Trout, Kyle and Lee canyons, threatening the Rainbow subdivision and forcing the weeks-long evacuation of 500 nearby residents.
About 1,300 firefighters worked around the clock to contain the 27,000-acre blaze at a cost of around $20 million.
Fire crews managed to prevent the loss of all but six structures by the time residents returned to their homes in August, though they were never in a position to protect the area’s property values and tourism revenues.
Displaced Mount Charleston home and business owners will have to take stock of those losses in the years to come.
“South Loop Trail and Griffith Trail will never look the same, and I don’t think they’ll recover in my lifetime,” Mount Charleston Town Advisory Board secretary Kerri Paniagua said at a July 8 town hall meeting. “The lodge will suffer, so will the hotel, but at the same time, we’re going to have an influx of what you would call looky-loos: Everybody’s going to want to come see the damage.”
FLOODS IN THE NORTHWEST
Eight weeks later, city emergency management crews braved several inches of rain and flood water to direct traffic around closed mile-long stretches of U.S. Highway 95, the consequence of flash floods that brought more than 6 inches of rain to the area in just a few hours.
Embers were still smoldering on Mount Charleston when two weeks of monsoon rains first fell on the northwest Las Vegas Valley, almost instantly overwhelming erosion-vulnerable flood diversions and channeling a torrent of ash and soot-infused floodwater into Lee and Trout canyons.
It didn’t take long for that runoff to hit the Kyle Canyon Detention Basin, which took on about 8,000 cubic feet of floodwater per second before allowing the floodwaters to burst into an adjacent flood channel along Grand Teton Drive.
The newly dubbed “Grand Teton River” went on to carry fist-sized chunks of hardened ash more than a mile past the Providence community all the way to the highway, shuttering the busy commuter corridor for the better part of a day.
Elsewhere, fire retardant-tainted rain water bubbled up from Centennial Hills’ storm drains and inflated into what looked like giant, spontaneously produced soap bubbles.
It was a historic flood event, according to Ward 6 City Councilman Steve Ross, one that could have been much worse.
“This could have been disastrous,” Ross told residents at a Sept. 5 town hall meeting. “This went well beyond the 100-year flood we planned for.”
GROWTH IN THE CITY
Residents were able to find plenty of silver linings in the storm clouds over Centennial Hills this fall, including some encouraging signs of growth along still flood-damaged Grand Teton Drive.
That’s where Olympia Companies LLC is set to break ground on a master-planned community next year, part of the first large-scale development set to be built in the Las Vegas Valley since 2007.
Olympia will look to pour about $200 million into its new 9,000-home development, the Las Vegas-based company’s first since wrapping up construction on southwest Las Vegas’ 2,300-acre Southern Highlands development.
Spread across 1,700 acres zoned for residential, commercial and gaming uses, blueprints for the recently named Skye Canyon development could leave room for everything from parks and schools to strip malls and a casino.
Concerns remain over how the developer will help protect existing schools, roads and homeowners from flashfloods worsened by recent erosion runoff at Mount Charleston.
“If one retention basin is good, is two better?” longtime Centennial Hills resident Rick Rychtarik asked Ross at a town hall meeting Sept. 5. “I’d like to know how that all pieces together now that they’re going to put 9,000 new homes over there.”
Ross assured residents that project developers at Olympia and city planners will take every precaution — from underground pipelines to multichannel drainage pumps — to hedge against the kind of flashflood-induced debris flows witnessed over the past 12 months.
Rychtarik said he wasn’t completely happy with Ross’ answer but decided to let the issue drop.
“No, I’m not sure the city has all its bases covered,” Rychtarik said. “But he’s my neighbor, so I’m not going to give him too hard a time about it.”
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3839.