A weekend storm that brought cooler weather and more than half an inch of rain to the Las Vegas Valley also brought 27 inches of fresh snow to Mount Charleston and smiles to at least one ski resort operator.
The precipitation sparked no weather emergencies in the valley, but it did force a short closure of the pass over state Route 160 to Pahrump on Monday morning and road controls for vehicles above the snow line in the Spring Mountains. And for a time on Saturday, it shut down all roads into the 3.4 million-acre Death Valley National Park because of flooding or debris.
The rain was just what Southern Nevada needed to get on par with annual averages, the National Weather Service said. Gauges at McCarran International Airport, the weather service’s official measuring site, reported 0.58 inches of rain in the Las Vegas Valley, bringing the rainfall for the year to 0.63 inches, just below the 0.75-inch average.
Other parts of the valley were a little wetter. Red Rock Canyon reported 1 inch of rain, and parts of North Las Vegas received 0.72 inches.
A high temperature of 50 degrees in the valley, 12 degrees cooler than the average high for Feb. 9, and a low of 40 degrees surprised one family in town for a visit.
Native Hawaiian Shane Gasper walked around the Town Square mall unfazed by Monday afternoon’s chilly weather.
With ominous clouds above and strong winds swaying palm trees, Gasper, 22, received looks from the few shoppers who braved the temperatures as he walked around in shorts and a T-shirt.
Gasper’s father, Mervin, also wore shorts, typical garb for them on the island of Oahu.
“He’s crazy,” the elder Gasper said of his son. “I’m a little sane. At least I’ve got on long sleeves.”
The snow came at the right time for snow bunnies, said Craig Baldwin, base operations manager for Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort on Mount Charleston.
“There are a lot of sore legs walking around,” he said of skiers and snowboarders who flocked to the mountain this weekend. “I think Advil sales are up.”
The snowfall brought the season total to 111 inches by Monday afternoon, well ahead of the usual amount of 120 inches for an entire season. Eleven inches of that snow came in the 24-hour period from Sunday morning to Monday morning.
“The snow is fresh and deep,” Baldwin said. “I am urging people to ditch work and get out here.”
Weather service meteorologist John Adair said state Route 160 near Pahrump was closed for a few hours Monday morning when an inch of snow fell quickly and caused poor visibility.
The storm also caused problems in Death Valley National Park, about 100 miles west of Las Vegas.
The main routes to park from the Nevada side reopened, though park officials said Monday that there was “a lot of debris on the roads,” including mud, rocks and a few small boulders.
The park’s official weather station in Furnace Creek recorded just under 1 inch of rain Saturday. That’s roughly half the amount of rainfall Death Valley receives in an average year.
California Route 190, which provides the shortest route into the park from Las Vegas, reopened Sunday morning. California Route 178, which runs through Badwater and the southern end of the park, reopened Monday, as did the road into Death Valley from Beatty.
The road to Scotty’s Castle from the floor of Death Valley remained closed, though the building could be reached from the Scotty’s Junction road on the Nevada side of the park.
Park naturalist Charlie Callagan said the rain greatly increases the prospects for a spring wildflower bloom in Death Valley, something that does not happen every year in North America’s hottest, driest spot.
Callagan said that this year’s wildflower crop is unlikely to rival the massive blooms in 1998 and 2005, but that it should be worth a look. The peak blooming period along the valley floor and up to about 2,000 feet in elevation is expected to be mid-March to early April.
Warnings about potentially treacherous weather conditions remained in effect for Mohave County, Ariz., to the south and Lincoln County to the north on Monday night.
More rain is expected in Southern Nevada on Thursday and Saturday, but meteorologist Adair said it won’t be significant amounts.
“So far, we are running near normal,” he said. “This band of precipitation produced some locally heavy snow and moved off. It’s not unusual for this time of year.”
Review-Journal reporters Antonio Planas and Henry Brean contributed to this report. Contact reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.