Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And Then Came the Flood

You might think that a place called "Sin City" would have more than it's share of "acts of God" and nature thrust upon it.

Actually life in Las Vegas can be relatively stress free for those of us who are used to contending with earthquakes, tornadoes, ice and snow, and hurricanes.

Sure it's hot, but as the cliche goes -- it's a dry heat. When the mercury tops 113 in the shade in mid-July, you may think you're living in hell, but heck, that's why God invented Air Conditioning and Casinos. Lovely places to cool off and lose your shirt.

Las Vegas does have a few fault lines running through it, capable of mid-size earthquakes and it can get cold enough for a few snow flurries in the winter, but other than that, there is really only one major threat to life and property to speak of.

The Monsoon Season. Okay, go ahead and laugh. It sounds sort of ridiculously ominous --- ooo, the dreaded monsoon . . . in a desert that get an average rainfall of less than 5 inches, I mean, how bad could it be?

Well, if 3 of those inches of rain fall in less than 3 hours it can be very bad indeed. And that's exactly what happened early Monday Morning. Most folks were asleep at 3a.m. when the worst of it started. This being a 24 hour town though, some poor souls were on the roads for whatever reason, on their way to or from work, or trying to make it home after a long gambling session.

The temps had reached well over 100 degrees on Sunday, and the humidity had risen, with a 30 percent chance of overnight thunderstorms. What we got was as intense a storm as I have ever experienced, and I lived 12 years in tornado ridden Tennessee. The lightning was so intense, I was certain my very complex had taken at least a few direct hits.

At 4a.m. I got up and looked out the window. The water was fast, but as a car drove in, I could see the torrent did not yet reach it's hubcaps. I head sirens very close, and in the back of my mind I wondered if my ground level garage would flood. As I lived on the second floor, I was in no immediate danger, and so I went back to bed. The storm eventually died down, and I was awaken again around 8a.m. as another round of thunderstorms passed through.

I slept late, and began my day with my usual routine. Around 4:30p.m. I ventured out to the post office. As I walked outside my door I was met with disturbing sights and sounds. Carpet guys with pumps working on the first floor apartments. As I turned the corner to check on my garage, the people across from me were cleaning theirs out. They were transferring what they could from soggy cardboard boxes to plastic bins. This did not bode well for me, who uses my garage as storage, half my belongings on the floor in cardboard boxes.

It wasn't good. But then again, it could have been so much worse. I was somewhat spared, as only about 2/3 of my garage got wet, and no more than a quick inch at that. My neighbors had both their apartment and their garage flooded, and as I would soon learn those downhill from me saw some devastating damage.

A retaining wall was completely destroyed, and some saw their garages fill with 2 feet of water. That siren I heard was someone being rescued from their stalled water drenched vehicle at an intersection very close to me.

The Review Journal interviewed people at my complex -- here is a link to the article.

Note the bolt of lightning that came through the roof of a house at Hualapai and Sahara. That's some scary stuff.

Homeowners in my neighborhood had extensive damage as well.

And a link to an article about the flood of '03

So you see the "Monsoon Season" that runs from mid-July through mid-September in Las Vegas is nothing to sneeze at.

You may notice the billboards around town that urge motorists to use common sense when encountering water on the roadway. They are no joke. Luckily no one was hurt the other night, but plenty of rescues were necessary. Thank God for cell phones, or many of these people might have been simply stuck, their cries for help unheard in the cacophony of the storm.

Mother Nature unleashed her fury, but thankfully we haved lived to tell the tale.

I will now return you to your regular scheduled programming -- slots, slots, and more slots.

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