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Highways reopen, flights resume after Vegas storm
by Ken Ritter - Associated Press Writer
Dec 18, 2008 | 730 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LAS VEGAS — Flights resumed at the airport at dawn and highways reopened about noon, but schools were closed Thursday after a record-setting snowfall blanketed the Las Vegas Strip and surrounding mountain areas.

Interstate 15, the main route between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, reopened after crews had time to plow and sand a mountainous 50-mile stretch between the Nevada state line town of Primm and Baker, Calif.

U.S. Highway 95, a main link to Phoenix, also reopened near Boulder City after being closed due to snow and ice, Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman Bob McKenzie said.

“Snow is not unknown in the Las Vegas valley,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jerome Jacques said as the city awoke to clear weather after a storm that left 3.6 inches overnight at McCarran International Airport.

The unusually heavy desert snowfall snarled traffic, and left heavy wet accumulations of snow on marquees and palm trees along the Las Vegas Strip. At least one carport toppled under the accumulated weight, authorities said, and motorists in Henderson parked their cars and walked home when tires spun as they tried to navigate slippery uphill climbs.

Jacques said about 2 inches was left before dawn on the ground near the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign where tourists snapped photos in the flurries a day before.

“On average we get 1/2 inch of snow a year,” he said. “But this amount made it a significant storm. We haven’t had this amount of snow since 1979.”

The accumulation at McCarran broke a December record of 2 inches set in 1967, but didn’t top the 7.5 inches of snow recorded at the Las Vegas airport on Jan. 30-31, 1979.

Schools were closed Thursday in Clark County for a rare snow day as administrators assessed the hazards of getting more than 300,000 students to almost 350 campuses in the region. Classes were set to resume Friday.

The last snow day in the district was during the 1979 storm, district spokesman Michael Rodriguez said.

Airlines resumed flights into and out of Las Vegas after canceling dozens of flights late Wednesday, McCarran airport spokesman Jerry Pascual said.

“Visibility has lifted. The outlook for the day is much better,” Pascual said as the sun rose Thursday to reveal snowy mountain peaks around Las Vegas.

Pascual said stranded travelers slept on lounge seats and floors at the nation’s sixth-busiest airport, where just three flights arrived and one departed between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Foothill areas in Henderson and southeast of Las Vegas received the most snow, and meteorologist Faith Borden said a weather service observer measured 8 inches in southeast Henderson about 9 p.m. Wednesday.

“That’s the area that got the most snow inside the valley that we know of,” Borden said, adding that Mount Charleston northwest of Las Vegas received 11 inches of snow.

The storm was the second this week to bring snow to the desert in and around Las Vegas. Accumulations barely had time to melt in the western foothills before visitors were parking and posing Wednesday for pictures amid flurries on the Strip.
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