Tuesday was the warmest Nov. 19 on record in the Las Vegas Valley, but rain, snow and possible thunderstorms loomed in the forecast.
The high was 81 degrees, breaking the record of 76 that was set in 1976, said National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Outler.
Traces of precipitation fell Tuesday evening in parts of the Las Vegas Valley, and a winter storm warning was set to begin at 4 a.m. Wednesday for high elevations in the Sheep Range, in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and on Mount Charleston, according to the weather service. The day’s forecast called for a high of 59, a 90 percent chance of rain and southeast winds up to 10 mph.
The projected snow and rain has prompted a flash-flood watch through Wednesday afternoon for Lake Mead National Recreation Area and northeast Clark County.
Snowfall in the mountains could reach 10 to 20 inches in the Spring Mountains and Sheep Range. The heaviest snowfall will be above 7,500 feet. The snow level will drop to 6,100 feet by Wednesday night. Winds may gust up to 35 mph.
It's been 8 weeks w/out rain!
That's 8 weeks of car oils, dirt & desert dust build-up. When wet, this build-up creates slick, hazardous roads.
Leave 2x more room between you & the car in front of you to stop at the same rate.#VegasWeather #NvWx #CaWx #AzWx https://t.co/9zkbnvZkfo pic.twitter.com/RkQhqmIMQW
— NWS Las Vegas (@NWSVegas) November 18, 2019
“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” stated a warning from the weather service warning. “Anyone hiking or engaging in other outdoor mountain recreation will be at risk of being trapped by the sudden change in weather.”
Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Jason Buratczuk said Tuesday that the first dose of snow in the mountains could bring crowds to the Mount Charleston area this week.
“Thankfully this is going to be midweek, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing too much traffic, but it’s still going to attack people who are curious to see snow,” he said. “We just ask that people pay attention.”
In snowy weather, cars need to be outfitted with snow chains, all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive for the Lee and Kyle canyons, he said. Those heading up the mountain need to park completely off of the road or in a marked parking spot to avoid being towed or getting a ticket.
The roads need to be clear in case someone becomes stranded or injured on the mountain, he said.
“It’s a matter of safety,” Buratczuk said. “We need to get first responders up here.”
People should also make sure they have a full tank of gas and a fully charged cellphone, and carry blankets and snacks in case their car breaks down, he said. If the weather comes down hard, there will be troopers and signs warning drivers at the base of the mountain.
“All the basics that pretty much every where else in the country people know about, but things you don’t really think about here in Las Vegas,” he said.
Vehicles that get stuck or are unprepared for winter weather become a hindrance during the snow-removal process. Anyone planning a trip to Mount Charleston is encouraged to check the NHP Twitter page at @nhpsoutherncomm, gomtcharleston.com or the Nevada Department of Transportation website for the latest updates on road conditions and chain/AWD requirements, the Highway Patrol said.
Rain in the valley
The storm could bring rain to the lower temperatures in the valley, but drivers should still exercise caution during rush hours, obey speed limits and increase braking time, Buratzcuk said.
Crash numbers triple whenever the valley sees a significant amount of rain, especially when it’s been dry for months, he said.
“Oil, other fluids from vehicles, dust, debris, everything’s been cooking on our roads for two months,” he said. “As soon as we get that first rain, everything’s going to raise to the surface, it’s going to become an ice skating rink.”
In its update, the weather service said “the best chances for heavy precipitation will be tonight through Wednesday, with showers lingering through Thursday, before dry weather returns Friday through the weekend.”
Do YOU see the clouds over Mt. Charleston this morning? This is the view of them from our office.
These are called ACSL clouds – or Altocumulus Standing Lenticular Clouds and they're caused by windy conditions on the mountains.
Show us your photos!#VegasWeather pic.twitter.com/HuvehZeBcT
— NWS Las Vegas (@NWSVegas) November 19, 2019