Proper planning and tight coordination between local and state officials were key in saving the lives and limbs of untold area residents during the severe tropical storm that passed through parts of Southern Nevada and California over the weekend.
In the days leading up to the storm’s arrival, meteorologists described the weather event as “potentially deadly.”
On the lookout
Scott Lewis, Director of Nye County of Emergency Services, and Pahrump Fire Chief told the Pahrump Valley Times on Monday that area officials were monitoring the weather system throughout the latter part of last week.
Fortunately, no serious injuries or deaths were reported.
“As the storm was intensifying, and Nye County was identified as a potential target, on Saturday morning, we went to full activation in the Emergency Operations Center under a unified command,” Lewis said. “The National Guard was assisting with support, while the American Red Cross assisted with an actual evacuation site at the community center. Our primary objective was to ensure complete and frequent communications with not only the department heads within the county, but our public throughout the county.”
Getting the word out
Lewis also said that the county used social media, along with stationary and portable display boards throughout the valley to provide updated information as the storm approached the area.
“County Manager Tim Sutton signed a Declaration of Emergency, which affords us opportunities on the recovery phase for additional resource requests.”
Additionally, Lewis noted that emergency crews performed several water rescues related to people who were allegedly trapped inside their structures and vehicles, surrounded by water.
He lauded the efforts of the National Guard crews who assisted local authorities with the filling and distribution of sandbags for infrastructure protection.
“We distributed approximately 15,000 sandbags throughout the county, and those precautions brought us great success,” he noted. “We had no significant damage to any of the county infrastructure, while citizens were able to protect their own property. One of the other things in our favor was the heaviest rainfall occurred on a Sunday, and the community heeded our advice for the most part and stayed at home, which reduced their driving on the roads.”
Timing is everything
Further, the majority of the storm hit Pahrump late Sunday evening when most individuals and families were sleeping, according to Lewis.
“We were awake and making sure that all the communities throughout Nye County were operating,” he said. “The emergency responders responded without disruption.”
Nye County School District closed on Monday, which Lewis said was “a sound decision based on the conditions that we experienced.”
Nye County Public Information Officer Arnold Knightly issued an advisory on Monday that water and debris were running off of Mount Charleston, which resulted in deep water flowing onto many Pahrump roadways, including Dandelion Street, southbound U.S. 95 at mile marker 47, along with Valley View Boulevard and Anvil Road in Amargosa Valley.
A manhole cover along Highway 160 and Yellowhand Road also went missing during the peak of the storm.
Drivers were advised to avoid Basin Avenue due to road construction conditions.
“Other roads and highways may be closed as water and debris fields continue to accumulate,” according to Lewis.
Valley Electric Association Inc. reported some power outages in Pahrump, which impacted traffic lights, he said.
Around the area
Highway 127 in California was also closed in neighboring Inyo County.
Death Valley on Sunday broke the record with the wettest day of the year, with 2.2 inches of rain near Furnace Creek, California, according to a post from the National Weather Service Monday afternoon.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Barry Pierce said many national parks, including Death Valley, Lake Mead and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area were closed ahead of the storm.
The Red Rock Visitor Center collected 3.23 inches of rain, Pierce said.
‘Dodged the bullet’
The valley remained in a flash flood warning through 5 p.m. Monday, but Pierce said most of the storm had made its way into northern Nevada and was moving northeast toward the Rocky Mountains.
Pierce said the rainfall totals, including 8 inches in Lee and Kyle canyons, were within the weather service’s predictions.
“We dodged the bullet,” Pierce said, citing damage in southern Nye County, road closures in Inyo County and damage in Death Valley.
For residents who collected sandbags, Pierce said they can keep them for future use.
“It’s not to the significance we just went through with Hilary, but there is still thunderstorms coming,” Pierce said.
Just outside of Beatty, U.S. 95 was closed for a short period of time due to water over the roadway.
Round Mountain road split
On Highway 376 at mile marker 62 near Round Mountain, the road surface actually split apart, which forced another closure.
No word yet on when that stretch roadway will be reopened, according to officials.
Smooth sailing on Highway 160
Lewis also said that there were no problems associated with inter-agency medical transports between Pahrump and Las Vegas hospitals.
“We were actually able to complete those missions without incident so there was really no issue,” he said. “There weren’t any requests, at all during the peak hours.”
Lewis said the American Red Cross provided an evacuation site, as opposed to a community shelter, which provides beds.
“At last count there were at least four people who came in,” he noted. “We were prepared for occupancy of 100 with the assistance of Red Cross but for only four individuals utilized the site.”
A fully functional process
Lewis praised the efforts of all area agency officials for their respective expertise in preparing for and providing assistance during the extreme weather event, where the Pahrump Valley received more than two inches of rainfall.
“All of the response agencies throughout Nye County were operating efficiently and I couldn’t ask for more,” he said. “They got great reports to us every two hours along with numerous emails for our status reports. The Board of County Commissioners were extremely supportive and Tim was quick on getting the declaration completed. Everybody did an absolutely great job. In some cases, I think citizens were complaining that we were over-communicating, but I don’t think that could ever be the case. Better that they know and prepare than not know and be unprepared.”
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at email@example.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes
The Las Vegas Review-Journal contributed to this report.