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Winds put Las Vegas New Year’s Eve fireworks in jeopardy

Updated December 31, 2018 - 12:09 pm

Sustained winds hovering between 10 and 15 mph are expected to last through Monday night and into 2019, jeopardizing the massive New Year’s Eve fireworks shows planned throughout Las Vegas.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jenn Varian said that gusts in the low 20s could die down by midnight, but the sustained winds could be enough to keep the sky dark when the clock strikes midnight.

“Usually the cutoff is around 10 mph,” Varian said. “Since we’re hovering around the mark, that’s why everybody’s pretty nervous about it.”

The gusts in the 20s could return by 6 a.m. Tuesday and last through much of the afternoon, Varian said.

The low temperature overnight into the new year is forecast at 32 degrees but with the winds, temperatures could feel more like the mid to low 20s, she said.

Clark County fire marshal Girard Page said Monday afternoon that it’s “absolutely possible” that the fireworks show will be canceled if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

“We won’t allow the show to go on unless (wind speeds are) below 10 mph,” Page said. “It goes back to the firework safety.”

Each of the seven Strip hotels planning to launch fireworks has its own unique “fallout zone,” or predetermined area where remnants can safely fall. Debris falling outside that zone could endanger people, he said.

“If the wind’s too high, some of those remnants, and possibly some of those devices if they don’t work, will end up possibly going into the crowd,” Page said.

The county will monitor wind speeds up until midnight, coordinating with the National Weather Service all night and setting off “test shots” about 10 to 15 minutes before midnight. Test shots are required because it’s difficult to know what the wind speeds are in the upper atmosphere, Page said.

If debris from the test shots fall outside the fallout zone, the county may permit fireworks to go off at only the resorts where winds are slower, or delay the show in hopes that the winds die down. If the fireworks show does not begin by 1 a.m. Tuesday, it will be canceled, Page said.

County spokesman Erik Pappa said Monday morning that the fireworks have never been canceled since the show on the Strip began 19 years ago.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter. Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter.

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