Storm brings snow, freezing temperatures to Southern Nevada

Real football weather finally came to the Las Vegas Valley, right around the time Texas A&M was upsetting No. 1 Alabama on Saturday afternoon.

A Gulf of Alaska storm that blew into Southern Nevada late last week finally landed its punch in the late afternoon, with snow flurries reported west of the Las Vegas Beltway and an inch of snow on Mount Charleston.

Temperatures were expected to hit freezing late Saturday night and early this morning in the northwest valley. Around town all day Saturday, loads of Las Vegans could be seen wearing their winter hats and their down coats to protect themselves from the biting wind.

“It’s snowing in the mountains, it’s snowing at Red Rock and there’s light snow on the west side of the valley,” said meteorologist Larry Jensen with the National Weather Service.

In Northern Nevada, dry mountains were on the receiving end of more than 2 feet of snow, stoking skiers and snowboarders alike in the Sierra Nevada. That’s enough for two more resorts to open. Boreal and Mammoth Mountain are the only resorts in operation in California. But Northstar and Heavenly plan to open Friday.

The storm should be gone from the Las Vegas Valley by today as it moves to the east, but the cold front is still going to stick around, although the skies will be dry and the conditions will be sunny, according to Jensen.

He said it’s going to take awhile for the temperatures “to warm up and modify” and reach into the upper 60s again.

“We’re talking sometime around Tuesday,” he said.

The cold spell, while it isn’t setting any records just yet, is considered 15 degrees below average.

The big chill caused many airplane aficionados to bundle up at the annual Aviation Nation air show at Nellis Air Force Base on Saturday but otherwise proved an unworthy opponent alongside the enthusiasm for airplane stunts and the simple awe of seeing fighter jets in action.

“It is windy and it is cold, but so far it hasn’t impacted the show at all,” said Senior Airman and Public Affairs Officer Jack Sanders. “There are a lot of people here.”

For those who are shivering in the early mornings, if it’s any consolation this frosty weather is nothing compared with the record holders – like when it was 24 degrees in 1950 on Nov. 11.

Or when it was 27 degrees in 1948 on Nov. 10.

Conversely, it’s also been as high as 81 degrees – like in 1990 on Nov. 10. Or 85 on Nov. 11 in 1973.

“So right now, let’s just say we’re somewhere in between those two extremes,” Jensen said.

Generally speaking, the average temperature is 69 degrees this time of year, he said.

It’s not until after Thanksgiving and steamrolling toward Christmas that temperatures are consistently in the 50s and low to mid-60s, rarely reaching into the 70s; and if they do, they end up being record highs, Jensen said.

And although Tuesday should offer some respite from the cold, it’s not going to last, Jensen said. Temperatures are expected to drop again by Thursday when another storm from the Gulf of Alaska pays Nevada a visit, he said.

“All the storms at this point in time during the fall and winter are coming off the Pacific Ocean,” he said. “They’re forming in the Gulf of Alaska, then dropping down. That’s the general weather pattern.”

As to when we can expect snow that will actually stay on the ground for a few days in Las Vegas, don’t hold your breath: That usually occurs once every 10 years.

As for the average number of days where the temperatures hover at or below freezing, Jensen said there are an average 7.5 of them between January and December.

So you can now consider Saturday’s cold front the first of the 7.5.

We’ve got six and a half more to go. Get ready .

Which leads to this question: Where in the heck is the best place to vacation in the United States, if it’s not Vegas for the weather and the gambling?

Probably South Florida if you’re looking for swimming pool weather.

“Tahiti,” Jensen joked.

“I can’t list any towns in the U.S. or I’d get fired,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Tom Ragan at or 702-224-5512.

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