If you don’t have respect for Mother Nature and her flash-flooding wrath after last week, you probably don’t belong on the road when it rains.
Of course, many motorists don’t belong there, anyway, because they fail to understand that a light coating of rain atop an oil-touched stretch of pavement will turn a highway into a surface as slippery as black ice.
Last week, it wasn’t light rain that was of concern. It was the volume of H2O delivered in a classic 100-year desert flash flood.
A scenario that played out on Interstate 15 north of Las Vegas was the theme of several emails that “flooded” the Road Warrior in box.
“Turn around, don’t drown” is the mantra of the National Weather Service when flash floods are imminent.
So what happens when you see that torrent of water ahead of you and you’re on an interstate highway? Should you still turn around, even though the traffic is one way opposite your direction?
I asked that of Erin Neff, public information manager of the Clark County Regional Flood Control District.
Her response: Yes, if it’s a life-threatening event, use whatever means you can to get out of there.
“You’re going to have to assume that traffic ahead of you is going to slow down, probably come to a stop,” she said. “Heed the warnings, assess the situation and use common sense.”
A quick plug for the district — “heed the warnings” means now might be a good time to download the district’s free app, Flood Spot, which pushes flash flood information to your smartphone.
“We dodged some serious bullets in this flood because no one died,” Neff said.
But there were some close calls. A number of motorists had to be rescued from their stranded vehicles when the flood came.
Another common question was how deep is too deep? How high must the water be to retreat?
Neff said a good rule of thumb is that you reverse course when the water level is 1 foot deep. If floodwater covers your tires, you’re in trouble.
Unless you own one of those James Bond amphibious vehicles, your engine is going to stall out when floodwater gets in under the hood.
Another problem is that floodwater is usually muddy and you won’t be able to see what’s on the roadbed.
There could be rocks, tree limbs or other debris that could wreck your axle.
The rushing water could move the car. There were videos from last week’s storm showing cars pushed over surprise desert waterfalls. It doesn’t have to happen.
“Last week, there was nothing that could be done to prevent some of the flooding that occurred,” Neff said. “It’s like planning for an earthquake. You can reinforce the roads and bridges, but if it’s big enough, it’s still going to knock them down. The best thing you can do is to be vigilant and pay attention.”
Warrior reader Dave has a question about those cameras mounted near the traffic signals:
I’ve noticed many red-light cameras mounted all throughout Henderson. Are these operational or are they testing them? I thought the Nevada Legislature deemed them unacceptable for ticketing purposes.
The city of Henderson has no red-light cameras for ticketing purposes, city spokesman Keith Paul said.
“The cameras that motorists see on city of Henderson signal poles are only used to detect if a vehicle is stopped at a signal,” he said.
“The detection cameras are mounted toward the travel lanes and communicate with the signal controller — the box that is at every intersection — to help control the signal by detecting when there is and is not stopped traffic at the signal. The cameras do not have recording capabilities.”
Prolific Dave had another question about those private streets west of Green Valley Ranch.
The roads just to the west of the Green Valley Ranch have long sported signs saying “private street,” when in fact there is complete public access throughout. Could this have to do with maintenance and not with traffic? I asked a police officer out there about it a long time ago, and he had no idea either.
The private streets west of the Green Valley Ranch Resort are owned and maintained by the resort, Paul explained.
“Private streets are required to post brown street name signs, rather than the usual green street name signs,” he said.
“This allows city workers and other municipalities to easily identify the private streets.”
Commonly, private roads are gated. However, when private roads are not gated, as in this case, the property owner allows the public to utilize the road, he said.
Questions and comments should be sent to email@example.com. Please include your phone number. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter @RJroadwarrior.
ROAD WORK AHEAD
■ A sewer collection line and two manholes will be installed on southbound Dean Martin Drive between Post and Sunset roads Mondays through Fridays through Sept. 30 between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Southbound traffic will be shifted to northbound lanes with one lane open in each direction.
■ Lane restrictions for a paving and sidewalk project scheduled on Eastern Avenue between St. Rose Parkway and Silverado Ranch Boulevard and the intersection of Coronado Center Drive, Sundays through Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., tonight through the end of 2014.
■ Lane restrictions for a pipeline installation project scheduled on Sahara Avenue between Teddy and Highland drives, daily from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., Tuesday through November.
■ The northbound U.S. Highway 95 ramp to northbound I-15 will be restricted with reduced speeds affecting wide loads through mid-October.
■ The D Street onramp to southbound Interstate 15 will open in October. The entire project will be completed in November.
■ The northbound and southbound on- and offramps of Interstate 15 at Flamingo Road will be closed nightly through Sept. 22 as will the ramps for Cheyenne Avenue Sept. 26 through Oct. 19. Lanes on eastbound and westbound Cheyenne also will be restricted.
■ A sewer line installation on Rampart Boulevard from Lake Mead Boulevard to Alta Drive will occur 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday. Once the intersection is completed, lane restrictions will occur on Rampart from Lake Mead to Hillpointe Road through mid-October.
■ One-lane closures on Kyle Canyon Road from mile marker 15 to mile marker 21 through summer.
■ Traffic diverted to a single lane on Fort Apache Road between Elkhorn Road and the 215 Beltway. The 1-mile project will continue a block at a time from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. through mid-November
■ Intermittent lane closures on Rancho Drive between Sahara Avenue and Rainbow Boulevard through November.
■ Eastbound lanes on Rue de Monte Carlo near Las Vegas Boulevard South closed through Dec. 31.
■ Intermittent lane closures planned on Whitney Ranch Drive from Russell Road to Arroyo Grande Boulevard through December.
■ Intermittent lane closures planned on Warm Springs Road from Arroyo Grande Boulevard to Boulder Highway in Henderson through December.
■ Lane closures on Main Street to turn Main and Commerce streets into one-way pairs through the end of 2015.
■ Lane restrictions on Rainbow Boulevard from Ann Road to Tropical Parkway through end of year.
■ Lane restrictions on Grand Teton Drive between Durango Drive and Rainbow Boulevard through May 2015.
The average gasoline price Friday in the Las Vegas Valley was $3.62 per gallon. It was $3.66 in Nevada. The national average of $3.41 is down 3 cents from a week ago, down 6 cents from a month ago and down 16 cents from a year ago.
Las Vegas Review-Journal