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More storms possible after night of rain, flooding in Las Vegas

Updated July 29, 2022 - 6:03 pm

A rare humid morning in Las Vegas foreshadowed the possibility of more storms Friday, following a night of heavy monsoonal rains and lightning.

National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Gorelow said the area has a 40 percent chance of rain between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday.

At 3:45 p.m., radar showed a few storm cells building over Lincoln County with another string from St. George, Utah, to the northeast. The clouds were moving south but did not appear as big as those that formed Thursday night.

Las Vegas woke up to widespread debris in roads on Friday morning, especially in the downtown Mayfair neighborhood and on Maryland Parkway from Charleston Boulevard to Owens Avenue, according to a tweet from the city. The Mayfair neighborhood, which dates to the 194os, is generally located east of Maryland, between Oakey Boulevard and St. Louis Avenue.

Thursday night saw heavy rain sweep through the valley, where more than an inch was recorded in central Las Vegas and the Strip. Friday morning was met with a high of 101 degrees and 65 percent humidity at Harry Reid International Airport as of 9 a.m., following reports of sporadic flooding the previous night in roads and casinos.

Gorelow said that after several years of less active monsoon seasons, Thursday night’s storm brought the heaviest July rainfall the valley has experienced since 2018.

“Personally, it was one of the best storms I have seen in 20 years,” he said. “I haven’t seen lightning like that in a very long time.”

Flood control history

On average, Las Vegas receives just over 4 inches of rain a year, but even small amounts of rain during summer monsoons can turn into flash floods, such as the 1975 flood that swept away hundreds of cars at Caesars Palace.

In September 1986, Clark County voters approved a ballot measure that increased the sales tax by a quarter percent to fund the Regional Flood Control District.

Michelle French, a spokeswoman for the flood control district, said the valley has been better equipped to handle seasonal rainfall since the agency was created. Since then, the agency has helped create about 677 miles of storm channels and drains to funnel water from the west side of the valley into Lake Mead to the east.

French said there were no problems with the agency’s infrastructure during Thursday’s storm.

“Everything moved the way it was supposed to as far as moving water safely,” she said.

Former chief engineer and general manager of the district Virginia Valentine said that prior to 1986, “there was no flood control.”

There was no valleywide system in place so channels or other infrastructure built by the city or county ended at jurisdictional boundaries.

“There was pretty much rampant flooding everywhere across the valley when it rained,” Valentine said.

After voter approval, a comprehensive flood control master plan was developed that identified where structural elements were needed. In addition, Valentine said flood plain mapping helped regulate development in the valley so it would be folded into the expanding flood control system.

“As development grew, and the valley grew, and the county passed lands bills and more land became available for development, the plan was then updated to include those new areas,” Valentine said.

She said the master plan still works in mitigating flood damage today. For example, upstream from The Linq Hotel is a detention basin which reduces the peak flow of floodwaters during storms.

“There’s a giant grate or drain in Winnick (Avenue) that collects that water, otherwise all of that water, you would have seen a lot more water in that location. (It) would have been a lot worse,” Valentine said.

She reminded residents that streets are designed to carry water when it floods and are part of a drainage system working properly.

“I think having a little storm like this once in a while is really good if for no other reason that it reminds people that flooding is still a possibility,” Valentine said.

Related: Historic floods in Las Vegas Valley — PHOTOS

Strong wind, power outages

The weather service measured 0.32 inches Thursday at the airport, where the agency takes official measurements. But the flood control district measured rainfall of up to an inch in downtown Las Vegas, near the Strip and in the outskirts of the valley, according to online rainfall data.

Meteorologist Barry Pierce said the strongest wind gust was 71 mph at Flamingo Road and Eastern Avenue.

Two cells moved into the south suburbs shortly after 10 p.m., one over Henderson and the other near Sloan.

At 10:12 p.m., NV Energy reported about 7,300 customers without power, with most in the central and eastern parts of the valley. There were small outages throughout the valley Friday morning, with the most significant in the 89101 ZIP code, where more than 200 customers were without power as of about 11 a.m., according to the NV Energy website.

There were also reports of water damage inside the Circa sportsbook and Caesars Palace on Thursday night.

Circa CEO Derek Stevens released the following statement Friday afternoon:

“Last night’s weather took Vegas by storm and we were no exception. But, the show must go on and I’m happy to share that repairs are underway and we’re open for business. Games are playing all day at Circa Sports and we’re accepting sports bets on the second level. Lower-level sportsbook seating is temporarily closed but we expect it to be fully open this weekend.”

Dayna Calkins, a spokeswoman for Caesars Entertainment Corp., said some properties had minor damage during the storm but were operating normally on Friday with repairs underway.

In the storm’s aftermath, about 15 intersections or streets were closed as of 11:35 p.m. Thursday, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

The Las Vegas Fire Department responded to 330 calls between 9 p.m. and midnight, most of which were related to the storm, the city said in a statement Friday morning.

Seven people were rescued from floodwaters, and firefighters assisted with 22 accidents and 15 outside fires.

Downtown damage

A Las Vegas Review-Journal photographer said all of the lights on the Fremont Street Experience were out, as well as some lighting at the Golden Nugget.

The storm caused a temporary outage of the canopy, but there was no storm-related damage at the promenade, Andrew Simon, the president and CEO of the Fremont Street Experience, said in an emailed statement. Business was operating as normal on Friday.

Winds were blowing 40 to 50 mph in downtown Las Vegas around 9 p.m. Thursday. A gust of 54 mph was recorded at Decatur Boulevard and the 215 Beltway, said Trevor Boucher of the weather service.

Around 9:45 p.m., Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Aaron Lee said there were about eight vehicle crashes valleywide since the rain began about an hour earlier.

One vehicle was stuck under floodwaters at South Commerce Street and West Charleston Boulevard, according to Lee. He said water continued to rise in the area of Maryland Parkway and Charleston.

Related: Heavy rain causes flooding in Las Vegas Valley — PHOTOS

“There is a tree fallen at Stewart and 13th Street which is partially blocking the road,” Lee said earlier.

Just south of downtown, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center experienced minor flooding from the storm, but it did not disrupt hospital operations, hospital spokesperson Mussi Marissa said.

Widespread rain

Several areas in the valley had received an inch or more of rain overnight, according to the flood control district’s online rainfall gauges. They included: Desert Inn Road and Las Vegas Boulevard (1.06), the Tropicana Wash at Flamingo Road and University Center Drive (1.02), downtown Las Vegas at Clark Avenue and Third Street (0.91), the far southwest valley near the Chimera Golf Club (1.34), south of Heritage Park in Henderson (0.98) and the far west valley near the Rhodes Ranch Golf Club (1.06).

Many parts of the valley received a half-inch or more, and pea-sized hail was reported in Henderson.

Earlier Thursday, two storm cells of moderate strength approached Las Vegas from the north around 7:45 p.m., prompting a severe thunderstorm warning for the northern half of the valley. Rain began falling around the north 215 Beltway around 8:35 p.m. before moving south.

The Las Vegas airport saw some departure delays, with some averaging about 50 minutes.

The flood control district said in a tweet that the water depth rose to more than 16 feet in the Tropicana Detention Basin near Russell Road and Decatur Boulevard as of about 10:30 p.m., although there was still “lots of capacity left in the basin.”

According to the North Las Vegas Fire Department, fire crews rescued a 56-year-old woman caught in the water at a wash near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Craig Road at about 10 p.m. Thursday. She was taken to University Medical Center with minor injuries, the Fire Department said in a tweet.

DMV delayed opening Friday

From Nevada DMV on Twitter: “The DMV office at 7170 N. Decatur in LV will have a delayed opening Friday morning due to water damage in several offices. Watch our website for updates.”

Could repeat Friday evening

Pierce said the storms could repeat on Friday.

“We are stuck in the same monsoon pattern,” he said. “Storms move south from Lincoln County and any time from 6 to 10 p.m. could be another show with lightning, rain and winds to 60 mph.”

A chance of rain is forecast each day for the coming week. Highs will be around 100 with lows in the lower 80s.

Monsoon rains have been scarce in recent Las Vegas summers, but the valley has seen at least three widespread storms in just two weeks.

Contact Marvin Clemons at mclemons@reviewjournal.com. Follow @Marv_in_Vegas on Twitter. Contact RJ staff writer Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Review-Journal staff writers David Wilson and Sabrina Schnur contributed to this report.

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