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100-year storm hits Vegas

A freak burst of rain, bringing down three inches in half an hour, caused flash flooding Tuesday in parts of Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, Nev.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | LAS VEGAS, Nev. | August 20, 2003


"Here we get a mountain of rain all at once, and then we don't get rain again for 12 weeks."

—Charles Desiderio


A freak burst of rain, bringing down three inches in half an hour, caused flash flooding Tuesday in parts of Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, Nev., according to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman's office.

Citizens were told not to travel during the peak of the flooding, and Goodman declared a state of emergency for the city Wednesday morning. City officials estimate the infrastructure damage at between $1.2 and $1.5 million. Goodman called the occurrence a "hundred-year storm."

One home was destroyed by the flood, and another 37 incurred major damage. At least 21 homes incurred lesser damage, according to city officials.

At least five people were rescued by helicopter during the height of the flooding, as well as a crew of four firefighters, who were trapped in their fire engine amidst surging floodwater.

Charles Desiderio, a Salvation Army volunteer, said the flooding was particularly surprising for a desert community like Las Vegas. But he also pointed out that damage wasn't as widespread and massive as in other parts of the country that routinely get lots of precipitation.

"It's not like hundreds of homes were damaged to where people couldn't live in them," he said.

Desiderio, originally from New York, said that weather in Nevada doesn't work the way it does on the East Coast.

"Here we get a mountain of rain all at once, and then we don't get rain again for 12 weeks," he said. "It's a nightmare."

City work crews cleaned up around the flood-damaged areas Wednesday. Only one road was still closed Wednesday afternoon, and officials estimated it may be under repair until Friday.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter Tuesday night at the Veteran's Memorial Leisure Services Center, but that shelter was shut down as of early Wednesday morning.


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