Nature’s wrath: The problem with rain in the nation’s driest state

Receding floodwater surrounds a home in Moapa, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Flooding throughout the area damaged homes and roads.

Moapa Flooding

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 1977 report on flooding in Clark County from 1905 to 1975 is rife with dramatic accounts of events documented in local newspapers, collectively portraying a havoc-wreaking wet world in the driest state in the nation.

Designed to alert current and future residents to the dangers of flooding, it stands today as a testament that, despite our efforts, nature will always be smacking us around. Washed-out roads, raging torrents, downed phone lines, mud-slicked streets, skidding cars and soaring traffic accidents—that could be Southern Nevada last week, rather than a brief summation of 20th-century storm scenes here.

On Saturday, crews worked on the flood-damaged I-15 in Moapa, where Gov. Brian Sandoval declared a state of emergency, while 35 miles away in Mesquite, the Virgin Valley Heritage Museum’s Getting There: Trails and Highways Through Southern Nevada exhibit featured a 1931 photo of stopped traffic on Mesquite Boulevard, waiting for flood waters to recede.

Flooding at The Linq

In Las Vegas, old newspaper reports show that the phenomenon of cars driving into the flooded Charleston Underpass has been going on for more than five decades, though it has been awhile since we’ve seen multiple vehicles underwater at Caesars Palace, where more than 100 cars were reportedly submerged on a July weekend in 1975.

The Nevada Legislature authorized the creation of a flood-solving master plan in 1985, but fourteen years later we watched as homes from the Miracle Mile Mobile Home Park were pulled into the Flamingo Wash.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into flood control in Clark County, including detention basins and storm drains, yet last week viral videos showed the flooded Quad parking garage and car-swallowing waters in Moapa.

By Saturday all was quiet in Moapa Valley, and clear skies and high temperatures were drying out the muddy aftermath. Still, on deck was Tropical Storm Odile promising, possibly, more of the same.

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