Southwestern rains flood deserts and cascade into Vegas casinos

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Intense summer thunderstorms that flooded parts of Las Vegas — causing water to cascade from the ceilings of the casino and pool onto the carpet of a sports betting area the size of a stadium — were part of a broad regional monsoon pattern that can repeat through the weekend, a National Weather Service official said Friday.

“We’re getting right into the thick of the busiest part,” said John Adair, a veteran meteorologist with the weather services office near Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas. “It’s turning out to be quite an active monsoon season, compared to the last five years or so. There’s a lot more opportunity for thunderstorms to develop.

The annual weather pattern has brought a parade of storms to the southwestern United States in recent weeks, bringing flooding in normally dry washes, rains measured in inches and rescue operations.

In Arizona, a driver had to be rescued from a vehicle stuck in floodwaters at Apache Junction. A team of young conservationists abandoned the red truck they were in at the Navajo Nation’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument when it got stuck in the mud and water rose around it. Mohave County Sheriff’s officials rescued a woman who clung to a stop sign earlier this week after her car was swept away.

Parts of the Hualapai Mountains in Mohave County have received up to 6 inches of rain in recent days, Adair said. The National Weather Service said parts of Arizona can expect 1 (2.5 centimeters) to 2 (5 centimeters) inches of rain per hour before a flood watch expires Saturday morning.

While the rain is welcome in a drought-ridden region, it’s creating headaches for neighborhoods where wildfires have stripped the land of vegetation, which normally slows and partially absorbs floodwaters.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted a request to include the effects of flooding and mudslides in some counties affected by massive fires this year in the state disaster declaration.

In northern Arizona, Flagstaff residents have grown accustomed to constant cellphone alerts and neighborhood sirens warning of impending flooding.

Bret Henneman estimates he has about 3,500 sandbags around his home just north of Flagstaff where two wildfires burned this spring. His wife was babysitting and had the back door open two weeks ago when heavy rain fell and sent a few inches of rain and mud through the house.

With every flood alert, they are now backing off.

“We still need the rains and all that and we really need the monsoons here,” said Henneman, who is staying with his family as his home dries out. “It’s just that the forest fires changed everything. So, yes, when it rains, we are scared.

Parts of Arizona, including the cities of Heber, Show Low, Bellemont and Prescott, are nearing or above 200% of normal rainfall so far during the monsoon, which began June 15 and continues through in September. The weather pattern is random, however, which means some places like Payson are well below normal.

“There really isn’t a good explanation for why this is happening, but it’s part of the nature of storms,” ​​said Valerie Meola, a meteorologist with the Flagstaff Weather Service.

Jacquetta Brown was walking on a trail in Canyon de Chelly near Chinle, Arizona this week when heavy rains swept through and she spotted the partially submerged red truck. The rain is a blessing for the crops families plant in the canyon and the livestock, she said, but the monsoon also has a downside.

“We have dirt roads here, and when we can’t get through the wash, we can’t get to work and school,” Brown said.

While just 0.3 inches (0.76 centimeters) of rain was recorded at the Las Vegas airport Thursday evening, more than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) fell just 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Adair said.

Wind gusts nearby peaked at 71 mph (114 kph) and toppled trees. Pea-sized hail fell from lightning-streaked skies in suburban Henderson, where nearly 2.5 centimeters of rain fell in some areas.

Police, county and city officials and the weather service said no injuries or widespread damage were reported.

Casino patrons have posted videos of water dripping from ceilings at Caesars Palace and Planet Hollywood resorts on the Las Vegas Strip and behind a huge video screen at Circa’s downtown hotel-casino. Video showed a man continuing to gamble on a casino slot machine as water fell around him.

“A night we will never forget,” Circa owner Derek Stevens said in a Twitter post.

“Last night’s weather took Vegas by storm and we were no exception,” Stevens said Friday. “But the show must go on and I’m happy to share that repairs are underway.”

Sports book seats are expected to reopen over the weekend, he said.

Rapid runoff from the sun-drenched grounds flooded street intersections, prompting vehicles to weave through high water near Las Vegas Boulevard and Main Street. Flood control channels turned into raging torrents. Scattered power outages were reported in places like the pedestrian mall at the downtown Fremont Street Experience casino.

Las Vegas firefighters responded to 330 calls for service and whitewater crews rescued seven people between 9 p.m. and midnight, city spokesman Jace Radke said. Clark County firefighters responded to six water rescue calls, county spokeswoman Stacey Welling said.

Adair said the Las Vegas area typically receives about 4.2 inches (10.7 centimeters) of rain per year, but the airport’s official measuring station recorded less than 0.7 inches (1.8 centimeters). ) in 2022.

The surface level of the region’s drought-stricken water supply – the Lake Mead Reservoir behind the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River – has fallen below 30%.

While runoff from storms in the Las Vegas area will reach the lake, monsoon moisture is unlikely to affect the ongoing regional drought, Adair said.

“For that, we usually rely on the winter season, where we get multiple Pacific storms coming in and covering a wide area with rain and snow,” the meteorologist said. “It can have a significant impact on drought.”


Fonseca reported from Flagstaff, Arizona.

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