It may be difficult to imagine on a day when it is clear with temperatures in the 100’s, but on July 8, 1999, Las Vegas was ravaged by a 100 year flood. That flood caused millions of dollars in damage and was responsible for one death. Although flash floods can occur at any time of the year, in the desert during July, August and September, flash flooding is more likely because of the “monsoon winds.” Monsoons are winds that come from the southeast and the Gulf of Mexico. Warm moist air that collides with our desert air and the lifting effect of the mountains creates thunderstorms, which can dump large amounts of water in a short amount of time. Storms can form in as little as 15 minutes, just as it did in 1999, and catch you off guard. Here is some information you can use:
Flash Flood Watch means that conditions are right for a flash flood to occur. You should “watch” the sky for developing conditions and take whatever preparedness actions needed, such as getting sandbags. Monitor T.V. or radio for updated information from the National Weather Service.
Flash Flood Warning means a flash flood is in progress and you should seek high ground or shelter immediately. That means get off the streets, do not travel if possible, or move to a safe place.
If caught in the floods, here are some precautions you must take:
Never drive through water where you can’t see the pavement. When you drive through floodwaters, your vehicle can be swept away in as little as two inches of water. Sport utility vehicles are not immune to flood water, as a matter of fact they can be swept away just as easily. There is also the possibility that you could drive over a “sinkhole” where the ground has opened up from the water and can suck your vehicle in. This is probably the most dangerous condition to be in. There is practically no way to escape if caught in this situation.
Do not walk through rushing water. If you can’t see your feet while standing in water, it is too deep. It can knock you over and wash you away. There is broken glass, chemicals and other dangerous items in the water, not to mention the water is unsanitary. There is also the possibility of sinkholes where you would fall into a hole created by the water.
If you are in a detention basin or wash and it looks like rain – GET OUT! It doesn’t have to be raining where you are for a wash or detention basin to fill. It can be several miles away.
If you are caught in your vehicle during a flash flood stay with the vehicle until rescue units arrive on scene. The vehicle offers some protection and it is easier for rescue personnel to find you in a vehicle than in rushing water.
More information is available on the city’s emergency information Web site at www.lvalert.com or through the Clark County Regional Flood Control District.
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