Las Vegas’ torrential downpour: ‘I can’t take it anymore!’

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Last weekend's flooding near Rainbow Boulevard and Spring Valley Parkway. Photo by Aron Csiki.

After an August riddled with fickle rainfall, Las Vegas experienced extreme storms last weekend. Citizens across the Valley faced hurdles during their commute when the roads seemed to be replaced with canals by the downpour.

According to The Weather Channel, over eight inches of rain fell per day, with reports of mass flooding all across the desert. Images of commercial trucks getting stuck in the mud on the Interstate Highway 10 while crossing stateline are spreading across the Internet, but the road hazards affected us even closer to home.

Over the weekend, we experienced sporadic rainfall that would suddenly submerge our streets underwater. To some, the torrents of rain seemed like a biblical curse. “I didn’t really drive because I was scared,” UNLV student Ka’iulani-joy Conlu said. “I felt like I needed to build an ark just to make it to school.” 

Conlu wasn’t the only student who came across issues traveling through the rain; UNLV student Tai Beckx affirmed a similar experience. Beckx wrote in an email:

“On Friday while I was on my way home from campus, I drove through a particularly deep puddle — it was deep enough to be a lake really. My cold air intake may as well have been underwater… As I cleared the puddle, I heard a cacophonous sound coming from underneath the rear of my car. I kept driving, albeit quite cautiously since I was so close to home. I checked things out as soon as I got home, and lo and behold, it was the rear undercarriage that had been dragging against the pavement. That puddle definitely was the cause of the whole ordeal.”

A dangerous by-product of the rain was the rocks carried into the streets. Even in the aftermath, road hazards still posed issues to drivers. After the water drained and evaporated away, leftover debris still covered the roadways. Cars that hydroplaned in the storm were left scattering the road. “At one point, after the streets dried up, I even saw a car stuck on the median,” Conlu said. “It must have drifted off with the water.”

Monsoon season in the Mojave Desert is from late June to mid-September. In a PSA published by the City of Las Vegas, officials warned the public that humidity from Hurricane Hilary could be the cause of our storms. “As the land heats up, it causes humid air from the Pacific Ocean to move inland and north through Mexico, Arizona and into Nevada,” the PSA explained. “The moist air eventually becomes unstable and forms thunderstorms.”

The USDA’s Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) Network reported record-breaking precipitation in the Southern Nevada basin, accumulating 11.9 inches of rain in August, more than five times the median recorded precipitation. While this may seem like a good sign considering our state’s current water crisis, experts don’t see it that way. 

In an interview with Newsweek, director of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy Andrea K. Gerlak said, “It is really natural to see the storms associated with Hilary and to imagine these rains are helping to solve our drought problem in the Colorado River basin. If only it were that easy.” 

A week out from the storms and Vegas seems to be in the clear for now, but with roughly one more week of monsoon season, we can never be too sure. Conlu said it perfectly: “I just hope the rain clears up. I can’t take it anymore!”

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