A storm that dumped more than 7 inches of snow on parts of the Las Vegas Valley and prompted the closures of major highways and schools was clearing out Thursday night, but forecasters and state officials warned that icy roads could be a problem overnight and early Friday.
Clark County’s public schools will be closed Friday because of weather, the school district announced.
In addition to a call to parents, the Clark County School District sent an email at about 5:35 p.m. Thursday announcing the closure. Friday’s after-school activities, including athletics and the Safekey program, also are canceled.
The cancellation is “due to reports of potential freezing conditions” that would make the roads unsafe for school buses in the morning. “The school day will need to be made up this school year,” the district said.
Classes at UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College scheduled to start before 10 a.m. are canceled Friday morning, according to tweets Thursday night from the schools.
Southbound Interstate 15 near Primm was closed Thursday night due to weather-related hazardous conditions south of the area into California, according to a tweet from the Nevada Highway Patrol. Drivers should expect delays in the area.
The Highway Patrol tweeted at about 10 p.m. that the California Highway Patrol was investigating a crash involving multiple semi trucks just south of Primm on Thursday night. The Highway Patrol said it was an “injury crash,” but it was unclear how serious the injuries were.
“It is unknown when the road will reopen,” the tweet read.
Earlier Thursday, many residents ventured outside to enjoy the rare occurrence of snowfall in the valley.
Josh Perkins embraced the elements Thursday by taking a run through heavy snow on West Centennial Parkway. “It’s awesome out here,” said Perkins, who sported a long-sleeve shirt and neon yellow shorts over running tights.
The official snow fall total during the storm — measured at the National Weather Service’s station at McCarran International Airport — was 0.8 inches, meteorologist Andy Gorelow said Thursday night.
The weather service has never measured snow at the airport on Wednesday and Thursday’s dates, Gorelow said. About 0.5 inches fell Wednesday, and 0.3 inches fell Thursday.
“It’s pretty much done in the valley; we’re not looking for anything else tonight,” Gorelow said about the storm.
So far the weather service has measured five days in February with at least trace amounts of snow at the airport, Gorelow said. That ties the record set in 1949 for the most days snow has fallen in February.
The most snow that the weather service has recorded falling at McCarran in February was 4.1 inches in 1939, he said.
Nellis Air Force Base announced that nonessential personnel should report late to work on Friday, spokeswoman Rebekah Mattes said. Nonessential personnel at the base and the Nevada Test and Training Range should report to work at 10 a.m. Creech Air Force Base nonessential personnel should report at 10:45 a.m.
All mission-essential personnel should report for duty as scheduled, Mattes said.
Three major southern arteries out of Las Vegas — U.S. Highway 95 and Interstates 11 and a section of Interstate 15 — reopened Thursday evening after temporary closures. The Nevada Highway Patrol tweeted that U.S. Highway 95 was reopened in all directions near Searchlight on Thursday night.
“We are happy to report there are currently no road closures,” said the tweet, posted at about 6:50 p.m.
The Regional Transportation Commission warned motorists to expect delays because of icy roads on Rainbow Boulevard between Sunset Road and the 215 Beltway.
But those may not be the only travel woes left in the aftermath of the storm.
Depending on how fast roads dry Thursday after the ice and snow melts, the region could see black ice form on roads overnight, mainly in western valley and overpasses and bridges on I-15, according to meteorologist Alexander Boothe.
Gorelow said after the valley saw snow and rain showers around 3 p.m. Thursday, the roads could still be wet and icy Friday morning, particularly in the west and south areas of the valley.
“The showers came through late in the afternoon and wet all the streets,” Gorelow said. “It didn’t really have time to dry. Whatever’s wet out there has a potential of freezing overnight.”
Echoing the weather service’s concerns, the state Department of Transportation issued a black ice motorist driving advisory for all of Clark County, recommending that drivers slow down and budget extra time for travel. If they encounter black ice, the department says, motorists should remain calm and avoid overreacting.
“A general rule is to do as little as possible,” the department said in a news release. “Rather, allow the car to pass over the ice. Do not abruptly hit the brakes. In addition, try to keep the steering wheel straight. If the vehicle starts to fishtail, with the rear end sliding left or right, make a very gentle turn into the same direction. Drivers risk skidding or spinning out by struggling against it or by abruptly steering in the opposite direction.”
— Heidi Fang (@HeidiFang) February 21, 2019
Storm side effects
The storm also caused flight delays averaging more than two hours early Thursday at McCarran International Airport. Roughly 51 arrivals and 70 departing flights had been canceled as of 8 a.m., according to the airport’s website.
Airport spokeswoman Christine Crews said in an email Thursday evening that no flights were diverted, and runway conditions were good throughout Wednesday night and Thursday.
According to the website Flight Aware, nearly 331 flights at McCarran were canceled Thursday: about 173 departures and 158 arrivals. About 296 flights were delayed Thursday: 148 departures and 148 arrivals, the website said.
Meanwhile, at the height of the storm, visibility on valley roads was limited and traffic was heavy in many areas, according to the Highway Patrol.
The agency had investigated 66 crashes by 6 p.m. Thursday, many of which were caused by vehicles sliding off the road. Twelve crashes resulted in injuries — none serious — and two were hit-and-runs, according to trooper Jason Buratczuk.
Once the storm was over Thursday night, parts of the west valley had seen the most snowfall.
Reports in Summerlin showed snowfall between 6 and 8 inches, while Anthem in Henderson saw 2 to 3 inches. Mountains Edge and Southern Highlands saw reports of 3 to 4 inches, while other parts of the valley saw less than an inch of snow, Gorelow said.
“Further east you go there was basically just a trace,” he said.
By Thursday night, Mount Charleston received 18 inches to 2 feet of snow, the weather service said, which prompted chain and snow tire restrictions on all roads leading to the mountain.
Snowfall Thursday afternoon did not add much to accumulation levels in the valley, although snow did stick on the roads in the west for about half an hour, Gorelow said.
“Accumulations weren’t great, maybe half an inch,” he said.
Northwest Arizona also was blanketed by at least 10 inches of snow overnight Wednesday, causing nonessential Mohave County and Kingman government offices, as well as schools, to remain closed Thursday, according to Mohave County emergency management coordinator Byron Steward.
Overnight temperatures on Thursday are expected to drop to about 33, Gorelow said. The valley shouldn’t expect any precipitation for the rest of the week.
Friday’s high is expected to be 47 degrees, followed by highs of 49 on Saturday, 52 on Sunday, 57 on Monday and 62 on Tuesday. Overnight lows are expected to be in the low 30s on Friday and Saturday, before rising to the high 30s to low 40s Monday and Tuesday.
The average temperature for this time of year is about 64 degrees, a full 20 degrees above Thursday’s high of 44 at McCarran, Gorelow said.
Contact Jessica Terrones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0256. Follow @JessATerrones on Twitter. Contact Katelyn Newberg at email@example.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Rio Lacanlale, Mike Shoro and Mick Akers and photographer Ben Hager contributed to this report.
— Mick Akers (@mickakers) February 21, 2019
If you have sensitive outdoor plants, you might want to wrap them in a light blanket overnight.
“One thing that can wreak havoc on plants is unseasonable stretches of weather,” Southern Nevada Water Authority conservation manager Doug Bennett said Thursday.
A thin cover placed over them, such as burlap or a bed sheet, can often prevent them from being damaged in cold weather, he said. The cover helps retain a small amount of heat being released from the soil below. Adding a heat source, such as incandescent holiday lights can also help, he added.
Ideally, people living in Las Vegas should choose plants that are well-adapted to the Mojave Desert conditions, Bennett said. For plant selection advice, visit the SNWA or Springs Preserve online plant search. Bennett also recommends visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map.