Last week the Clark County Regional Flood Control District unveiled its newest billboard: an image of a blue car caught in a flash flood with the words “H2OTRAP” spelled out on a Nevada license plate. The winning phrase, submitted to the billboard license plate contest by Clark County resident Cheri Fisher, couldn’t come at a better time.
The months of July through September are called “monsoon season” for a reason. When the skies open up, the desert soil sheds water. Add to that the fact that the Valley is shaped like a bowl tipped on its side, with 2,800 feet in elevation difference between Red Rock and Lake Mead, and it’s easy to see why Las Vegas turns into a veritable Wet ’n Wild when it rains.
In 2007, the waters rose throughout Red Rock Canyon and The Lakes neighborhood. Moapa was deluged in 2005. Storms that swept through theValley in both 2003 and 1999 had water rising so quickly they were referred to as 100-year storms. Since 1960 there have been 31 deaths from 21 flash floods in and around Las Vegas.
The Clark County Regional Flood Control District was created in the mid-’80s to address flooding issues, Valley-wide. A representative for the flood control district says it’s a work in progress.
“That master plan is like a road map,” says Betty Hollister, public information manager for the flood control district. “And so it’s being built in a logical order with detention basins, channels and storm drains, to get all the water from the west side of the Valley to the east side safely and out to Lake Mead.”
The flood control district is working on 18 projects with a combined price tag of $150 million. The projects include flood channels, storm drains and retention basins, like those under construction near Tule Springs. These projects, when finished in December of 2011, will also serve as multi-functional parks.
Those detention basins will add to the total of 83 detention basins and 550 miles of channel and underground storm drains in Southern Nevada. That puts the flood control district more than halfway through the master plan.
Hollister says that when it comes to flooding, everyone is at risk.
“It depends on where it rains to determine where the risk would be,” she says.
So Valley motorists should keep the flood control district’s catch phrase in mind: “Turn around and don’t drown.” “Flood water can rise really quickly,” she says. “If it is raining hard and there’s a flash-flood watch or warning, stay inside and wait for the flood to be over.”