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Mount Charleston’s Old Town devastated by floods; area closed for weeks

Updated August 25, 2023 - 4:21 pm

Roads and recreation areas around Mount Charleston will be closed until at least Oct. 1, authorities said Friday, after Tropical Storm Hilary dropped 8 inches of rain and dug trenches as deep as 80 feet along washed-out roads.

The first chunk of pavement that washed away on Kyle Canyon Road, just past Fletcher View Campground, is about 20 feet long. A 10-foot deep gulch shows where a flash flood from Monday’s storm tore through Kyle Canyon Road.

Large branches are scattered through the wash, and throughout the week, NV Energy has been cutting down trees and fixing power lines. The residents of three Mount Charleston subdivisions — Old Town, Echo and Rainbow — were without power for two days after the storm.

“Some houses were damaged,” Mount Charleston Fire Protection District Assistant Fire Chief Jason Douglas said while standing in Old Town during a Friday news conference. “This was definitely the epicenter of what happened that night.”

Old Town’s library, fire station and school were all damaged by flooding. On Friday, an NV Energy employee was chopping down a tree that towered over three-story cabins and was rooted less than a foot from a short home.

NV Energy Fire Mitigation Specialist Mark Regan said 200 hazardous trees will need to come down next week. The company had been removing trees, building ramps from people’s homes to the dirt road, and filling in 5-foot-deep trenches since Tuesday.

On top of the 60 mailboxes under the Old Town sign, a cardboard sign with red paint read “Thank You NV Energy.”

Monique Sweeney, an Echo resident, said that on Friday night parents received an automated voicemail letting them know Lundy students will be bused 45 minutes to Indian Springs for elementary school beginning Monday.

“I know you guys have been devastated,” she said of the children, “but now we’re going to put you with people you don’t know in classes and on buses with people you don’t know.”

Her 7-year-old will be in a class that’s the same size as all of Lundy elementary, Sweeney said.

Sweeney is still waiting for authorities to bring a septic tank in and clear out the 4 feet of water in her basement. Her front door has a 6-foot dropoff, and both cars were taken by the storm.

“God picked a house and said, ‘Look, instead of doing devastation to all the houses, let’s just put it all on this one,’ ” she said.

Officials with the Las Vegas Valley Water District told Sweeney the storm knocked out the well, and they should plan to be without clean tap water for at least a month.

‘Sounded like a bulldozer’

Old Town resident Katie Reeh said she will always remember the rumblings of boulders rolling down the hill on Monday morning.

“It sounded like a bulldozer,” she said Friday.

Reeh, her husband, Sean, and their three children have spent the week wandering through their neighbors’ properties in Old Town checking on damage.

Their son, Sam, is among the 16 children who will be bused to Indian Springs.

“Sam has been really brave,” Katie Reeh said tearing up, thinking of the flood their family watched wash away her road, ending at the schoolhouse.

Sean Reeh said his motorcycle was destroyed and his Land Rover was buried in sediment. The family has lived in Old Town for four years and are among about a dozen permanent residents.

Another resident, Fay Ferris, said there were still a handful of cars stranded on the street outside her home. She shared a video from Monday morning of a river ending at the elementary school, which had caused the asphalt to fall 6 feet down in front of a door to the school. The same river smashed into the back of the fire station and demolished the road connecting the two buildings.

Up to $8 million cost

Nevada Department of Transportation District Engineer Mario Gomez said the department signed a contractor Friday morning for what is estimated to be a $5 million to $8 million job fixing Kyle Canyon, Lee Canyon and Deer Creek roads, all state routes.

Gomez said the contractor will need to build up the trenches where the road has washed away, and some are as deep as 80 feet.

The Nevada Department of Transportation expects to be reimbursed by the federal government for the project, he said.

The Transportation Department and U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Deborah MacNeill both indicated that the roads and recreation areas will be closed to visitors through at least Oct. 1, when Gomez expects the roadwork to be completed.

“I understand that Labor Day is coming, but with the closures at Deer Creek, all of upper Kyle, upper Lee and all the recreation off of Deer Creek will be closed until at least Oct. 1,” MacNeill said.

Clark County Manager Kevin Schiller said the Nevada National Guard helped authorities evacuate 51 people Monday from hotels and cabins surrounded by rushing water. The county was in contact with the federal government about other resources, but Schiller said officials still were determining what they needed.

Residents with questions for the county can call 702-455-0249 or visit the website clarkcountynv.gov/government/departments/fire/hurricane_hilary.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on X.

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