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Intense storm floods Vegas area, strands motorists

SHARE Intense storm floods Vegas area, strands motorists

LAS VEGAS — Intense thunderstorms swept through the Las Vegas area on Tuesday, flooding washes, delaying flights, snarling traffic and prompting helicopter rescues of stranded motorists in water-filled intersections, authorities said.

Television news video showed yellow school buses inching along roads after school in areas east of downtown Las Vegas, and muddy brown water up to the lower sills of picture windows of stucco homes in other neighborhoods.

In southeast Las Vegas, authorities recommended that the residents of about 45 homes damaged by flooding should leave in case the damage start electrical fires. The Clark County Fire Department was going door-to-door Tuesday night suggesting that residents leave their homes, said county spokesman Dan Kulin.

A Twitter photo showed dozens of cars swamped by water up to their headlights in a parking lot outside the Thomas & Mack sports arena at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

But after responding to numerous 911 calls, officials in Clark County, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Las Vegas said no serious injuries were reported.

The National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm and flash flood warnings before and after almost an inch of rain was reported at McCarran International Airport just before 2 p.m. Meteorologist Michael Staudenmaier said more than 1.75 inches of rain were reported in downtown Las Vegas.

Firefighters responded to more than 20 calls about people in stalled cars, county spokesman Dan Kulin said.

A Las Vegas police helicopter was dispatched during the height of the storm to pluck several people from swamped vehicles on area roadways, Officer Bill Cassell said.

The Las Vegas area is crisscrossed with concrete-lined flood control channels and pocked by lake-sized water retention basins. Since 1985, Clark County Regional Flood Control District officials say they've spent $1.7 billion constructing about 573 miles of storm drains and 90 basins.

Police officer Jose Hernandez noted that homeless people sometimes live in normally dry tunnels beneath key areas like the Las Vegas Strip. After rains fall, the channels and tunnels fill quickly as water flows west to east across Las Vegas toward the Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River.

Crews searched in vain along a wash northeast of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, after at least two callers separately reported that they saw a person in the water during the height of the storm.

Departures were postponed and arrivals were delayed after the airport ordered a stop on fueling operations during lightning, airport spokeswoman Linda Healey said.

Staudenmaier said the rainfall amounts put the region on pace to exceed the 4.5 inches of rain it normally gets in a year.