Vegas storms heading north |

Vegas storms heading north

Staff and wire reports

The same weather system that caused the worst flooding in Las Vegas since 1999 will bring rain and lightning to Northern Nevada today, according to the National Weather Service.

“We’ve got monsoonal moisture moving up through Arizona,” meterologist Brian O’Hara said. “It should stick around, and we could get some pretty heavy rain from it in the afternoon.”

On Wednesday, lightning strikes were mostly concentrated near Bishop, Calif., with a few scattered strikes around the rest of western Nevada, one of which set a half-acre fire on the top of Hot Springs Mountain in northern Douglas County.

Las Vegas officials said the flooding did at least $1.2 million in damage to public property after thunderstorms dumped 3 inches or rain in less than 90 minutes in some parts of Las Vegas, swamping flood-detention facilities. Damage estimates for private property weren’t available, but officials said one home was destroyed, 37 received major damage and 21 had some minor damage. Some 3,000 customers briefly lost electrical power.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said the “100-year storm” forced the city to declare a state of emergency.

Nobody was injured Tuesday night during the torrential downpour, but authorities had to rescue about 50 people from fast-moving waters that crashed through a 10-mile-square area in northwest Las Vegas and shut down roads and a portion of U.S. 95.

Runoff also eroded bridge supports on Interstate 15 forcing the California Highway Patrol on Wednesday to shut down the main desert highway linking California and Las Vegas. The bridge 60 miles north of Barstow, Calif., is in danger of collapse.

The National Weather Service said the storm developed quickly after air thick with moisture collided with southeast winds from the Gulf of Mexico and California.

Steve Downs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the storm wasn’t uncommon for this time of year. Downs said Las Vegas was slogging through a typical monsoon season.

In western Nevada, O’Hara predicted that sunshine this afternoon could provide additional instability, increasing the chance of thunderstorms.

“If it remains cloudy, the weather won’t be as unstable,” he said.

The Hot Springs Mountain fire was quickly contained and under control by 6 p.m., according to a spokeswoman for the Sierra Interagency Dispatch Center.

Two helicopters with buckets, two firefighting hand crews, two engines, water tender and a patrol plane attacked the blaze.

Firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Nevada Division of Forestry responded to the fire.