As We See It

Checking in on post-flood Vegas

Photo: Steve Marcus

Left with images of a woman clinging to a submerged tree on Sahara and two guys wakeboarding in a UNLV parking lot, Las Vegas is recovering from the epic rains of September 11. Tony Allen, assistant director of media relations at UNLV, says students have reported damage to 30 vehicles so far.

“We’re restricting parking until we can figure out some solutions to assure that doesn’t happen again,” he said, adding that engineers have been consulted about the lot and drainage pipes running underneath it to Swenson Street, where 2 inches of water accumulated in just 30 minutes. Allen says other impacts on campus were minor, though the losses would have been more severe without the quick hands of Jerry Schefcik and his students.

Schefcik is director of UNLV’s Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, and when he saw water flowing down the sidewalk, he noticed an eerie similarity to the flood of 1999. With a handful of students, Schefcik rushed to secure the Las Vegas Art Museum collection and other works stored in the back room, where the water became ankle deep. The floor, which was destroyed in ’99, is destroyed again. But the art is safe.

“If you looked out the window at the height of it, you could see the water was above the bottom of the windowsill,” Schefcik said. “They called it a 100-year flood back then, so two within 20 years—something’s up.”

Heidi Dupin, co-owner of remediation company All American Repair Services, remembers that flood. She said this one was worse, resulting in 25 calls in a single day from homes and businesses across the Valley, from a Levi’s store on Las Vegas Boulevard to the Alexis Park resort. Structural damage varies, though Dupin said a bigger concern is contaminated floodwater categorized as “black water,” which has come into contact with sewage. She also said few Las Vegans have flood insurance, and many don’t realize mold can grow in walls and under floors even when surfaces look dry. Recovery, she says, is “a long road.”

“Rain, in some parts of the country, is rain,” Allen reflected. “Here, this was an event.”

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Erin Ryan

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