Las Vegas Flooding: Thunderstorms Ravage The Desert City With Diverted Flights, Power Outages

A nasty case of Las Vegas flooding has caused the city to be almost shut down over problems created by a severe thunderstorm. Winds, hail, and lightning are tearing through the city known for its good times and Elvis-themed weddings.

At around 1:10 p.m. yesterday, a severe thunderstorm warning was issued when heavy rain began hitting Mount Charleston, northwest of Las Vegas in Nevada. In the Spring Mountains, rainfall up to two inches had already been reported, and the natural chaos was spreading. By 3 p.m, the rainfall and flood waters had extended to the Las Vegas Strip, which some locals are saying was flowing like a river.

This is a common problem in many desert cities, as the roads aren’t built for heavy rains, and the runoff instead stays where it’s not wanted as sewer drains overload and get blocked up with litter and mud. In more humid areas of the United States, the roads are built in a way that heavy rainfall is diverted into gullies and such.

Around 4:30 p.m., the damage started taking its toll, with firefighters attempting to rescue those caught in the flood waters. Injuries began piling up and hail the size of golf balls began falling near McCarran International Airport. Fifteen minutes later, flights started being diverted from the airport to those in California and Arizona, while others were being delayed by hours.

By 5:10 p.m., the Las Vegas flooding has knocked out power for nearly 4,700 customers, and flooding left at least one intersection southeast of the airport full of stalled traffic. More than one lane of U.S. freeway 95 was closed off as the water reached the Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson.

Winds had reached up to 56 mph, and while many had been rescued from the raging torrents. A tree had fallen, and lightning had sparked a house fire leaving two adults and a dog at least temporarily without a home.

This Monsoon-style storm has so far accounted for nearly half of the expected rainfall for most desert cities, and most citizens aren’t used to this level of damage.

Las Vegas flood waters topped 22 feet at a key detention basin which is connected to several channels whose purpose is to divert heavy rain water into the Colorado River and Lake Mead.

This natural disaster mirrors one which slammed Arizona in 2014, a state which is much less prepared for that kind of volume. Some residents had been seen actually traveling in row boats because the water had reached the tops of cars.


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[Image via Ethan Miller/Getty Images]