Monday, January 8, 2018

Wet Weather in the Desert

It rained in Las Vegas today.  Usually that wouldn't be such a big deal but since it hasn't rained here for 116 days people are pretty stoked about it.  They are also driving like idiots but that pretty much happens anytime it rains here.  There are only a few rules about 'what to do when it rains in the desert' but if you don't follow those rules you could die.  Yes, it is that serious.

  • If it starts to rain, immediately slow down and drive a whole lot more carefully.  In Seattle if it is raining, you can pretty much drive as you always do but when you get rain in the desert after a long period of no rain, the oil on the roads will rise to the surface and the roads will be slick as ice.
  • If if is raining anywhere in the vicinity, prepare for the possibility of flash floods.  Since rain doesn't soak into the ground here like in most other places (the desert is like concrete--whoever said burying a body here is easy was probably delusional but I digress...) it makes its own path heading towards the lowest spots it can find.  If that means the path goes over a road, floods out an underpass, or washes out a trail on its way to this lower area so be it.  This also means that A LOT of water tends to congregate in low lying areas all at once so while you might initially see a trickle of water going across a road, it can quickly turn into a fast moving stream.
  • Don't underestimate the power of fast moving water.  Even shallow water, if it moving fast enough, can wash away a good sized car or even larger items.
  • Always head to high ground when it rains in the desert.  Low-lying areas will get flooded and if you don't check the weather before you head out hiking, for instance, you could get trapped in an area like a slot canyon where heading to higher ground isn't possible and that's how people die.
  • Finally, be aware of your surroundings.  It's pretty much a given that people living in the flood channels under Las Vegas need to get out of those areas if they know rain is predicted but did you know that many golf courses in Las Vegas are built in washes that on any other day are park-like and green but during a rainstorm can turn into raging rivers?

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