Is it true that most Las Vegans don’t own a winter coat?
That would be foolhardy, considering the many backyard pools that froze over last week. The idea that desert environments don’t get cold is a myth perpetuated by the sizzling summers we endure. But “deserts” are defined primarily by average rainfall rather than average temperature. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, this approach originates in the 1953 work of Peveril Meigs, who “divided desert regions … into three categories according to the amount of precipitation they received.” At 4.5 measly inches per year, Vegas is definitely a desert: dry and hot on summer days, slightly less dry and downright chilly on winter nights.
Which leads to a fact that many fail to take into account: In the U.S., arid lands are often far from oceans. Proximity to the big pond (and its attendant humidity) helps keep things temperate. In contrast, high-desert areas such as the Las Vegas Valley experience big temperature swings after sunset. In San Diego, day-night temperatures shift about nine degrees in the summer; in Las Vegas, 20-degree swings are the norm.
So, while most Las Vegans probably don’t have a down-stuffed snow-survival suit, most own a winter coat. As for the folks sporting T-shirts and flip-flops during last week’s desert freeze? They were either Alaskan tourists enjoying our “nice weather” or Vegas fools stubbornly stumping for pool season while giving the rest of us a bad rep.
Once and for all: Where is Downtown Las Vegas?
The physical boundaries of “Downtown” have certainly expanded since the 1980s, when the city was much smaller (in both population and area). Back then, Downtown was considered to be the area on and around Fremont Street. Recently, though, I’ve heard suburbanites refer to the Springs Preserve as being “Downtown,” and while it seems a stretch to expand Downtown all the way west to Valley View, they might be right—especially when looking at a current aerial map. Boy, has this place blown up! With that in mind, I’d go big on the boundaries: Washington Avenue, Eastern Avenue, Sahara Avenue, Valley View Boulevard. Despite that serious swath, I’m convinced “Downtown” has become as much an urban state of mind as a place.