History of Flooding in Clark County
The desert southwest is an environment of extremes. Typically thought of as a dry and hot region, the area often experiences intense rainfall and subsequent flash floods. Recorded reports of flooding in Clark County date back nearly 100 years. In a special report entitled History of Flooding, Clark County, Nevada 1905-1975, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service documented 184 different flooding events that resulted in damages to private property and public facilities. Since 1960, the area has experienced at least 11 floods costing more than a million dollars each. In that same period, 31 lives were lost in 21 separate flash flood events.
While floods can and have occurred in almost every month of the year, the most damaging storms typically occur between July and September. During these hot summer months, moist unstable air from the Gulf of Mexico is forced rapidly upward by hot air currents. The dynamics of this process often result in spectacular displays of lightning in the desert sky. Too often, they also cause severe thunderstorms with intense rainfall on steep mountain slopes and armored desert surfaces. The rainwater runs off rapidly and concentrates in the urbanized areas at lower elevations.
Most residents and visitors are unaware of the flood potential or never see flooding occur until it is too late. Aside from the tremendous property damage and deaths related to flooding, Clark County residents experience inconveniences caused by impassable or difficult-to-travel roads. Support services such as police, fire and ambulance are sometimes delayed in responding to victims of life-threatening incidents.
Flood events can also adversely impact the local economy through loss of business at commercial establishments due to decreased access. Furthermore, flooding in the Las Vegas Valley can become national news and deter tourists from visiting the area.
The average rainfall in the Las Vegas Valley is 4.49 inches and this amount is nearly equally divided between summer and winter rainy seasons.
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