July 1, 2020 - 5:59 pm
Despite last year’s relatively dry summer, officials are reminding Las Vegas Valley residents of the dangers of flash flooding.
The Regional Flood Control District delivered its warning during a virtual news conference Wednesday, which marked the beginning of monsoon season.
Steven Parish, the district’s general manager and chief engineer, said one storm in the southwest valley last summer caused extensive damage in the Mountain’s Edge neighborhood and could have been much worse.
“Although last summer was relatively dry, the potential for deadly storms still exists,” Parish said. “We want to make sure people are vigilant and don’t get complacent.”
Todd Lericos, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Las Vegas, said the valley’s monsoon season is expected to be average this year, marking a slight increase in risk over last year. The season lasts through September in Clark County.
Though monsoon season brings a greater potential for flash flooding, Parish added that flash floods can happen any time of the year.
In March, two people drowned in a flash flood in the Flamingo Wash that swept away at least five people. Since 1960, 35 people in Clark County have died in flash floods, including the two in March, according to data compiled by the district.
Storms and flash floods still pose a risk amid extended dry periods, and Lericos advised that residents pay close attention to weather forecasts when planning activities outdoors.
“These events we have that are highly impactful can happen over a course of a few days and be very life-threatening,” Lericos said.
Parish added that as the coronavirus pandemic leaves many searching for a reprieve from self-quarantine through outdoor activities, more people have been seen riding bikes or walking through the valley’s 661 miles of flood channels, which he said is dangerous in both wet and dry conditions.
During storms, Parish said, water can flow through the channels at up to 30 mph. And against a person, “water always wins,” he said.
Larry Brown, Clark County commissioner and chairman of the Regional Flood Control District board, reinforced the importance of educating the public about flash flood safety, noting the district’s virtual-reality experience used to teach young drivers about the dangers of flash flooding.
He said the district’s education program may be transferred into a virtual medium, depending on the status of classes in the Clark County School District for the upcoming school year.
“The message, as always, is simple: Stay away from flooded roadways; stay tuned to the local weather reports; and remember, water always wins,” Brown said.
Planning for outdoor activity
Todd Lericos of the National Weather Service in Las Vegas said three steps should be taken when planning an outdoor activity:
— Check the weather forecast a few days in advance using the Weather.gov website or weather smartphone apps.
— Check the forecast the morning of the activity to ensure that conditions are still safe.
— Remain “weather aware” when outside and adapt to any changes.