VIDEO VAULT: Monsoon rains prompt flood control district

Wading Down Street.jpg

Southern Nevada is still in the midst of monsoon season. So far in 2017, the flooding damage here has been minimal.

Serious storm events still happen now and then, but things have steadily improved since the Regional Flood Control District was created in 1985. That followed a disastrous flood the year before.

In July of 1984, a drenching summer storm caught the valley by surprise. It was dangerous not just in the channels, but even in the street.

“Well my wife and I were looking out the window and watching the rain and all of a sudden, we saw this lightning hit the ground,” a shirtless man told News 3 as a torrent of water came from a hole in the asphalt behind him. “And it pulled up the cover and busted the pipe and the water kept shooting right up.”

No one was hurt there. Where the Washington Channel used to go over the top of Lamb, five people died, swept away when their cars were caught in the floodwaters.

As the $2 million clean-up began, some officials shrugged it off.

“Well, you have to understand that we get a rainstorm here maybe once a year,” said Las Vegas City Manager Ashley Hall. “And people can live maybe days a year and not feel hardly a drop of rain. Or if it does, it's only modest amount.”

The Clark County Department of Public Works had a different point of view.

“For each of the significant basins that have had flooding occur, there needs to be a plan,” a CCPW official told News 3. “They need to have the plan in place so that once the information is communicated, public officials can react.”

The key to the problem was money. New taxes that seemed to gain public support.

“Yeah, I think I'd be willing to pay,” said Tom Hyde as he surveyed water damage to his home. “I think you'd be silly not to. All you have to do is look up and down the street and see all the damage. And you can never tell when Mother Nature’s going to strike again.”

How much money would it cost? The answer seemed to depend on which News 3 reporter you asked...on which day.

“The current flood plans could cost an estimated $100 million”, reported Terry Kniess the day after the big flood.

“But now here's the big news,” countered Reporter Joel Grover two weeks later. “All this is going to cost up to $200 million.”

Actually, in 2017 there have now been some $1.8 billion in flood control improvements and counting, with 91 detention basins and over 600 miles of channels built so far. Monsoon season, with its concentrated summer storm cells lasts through September.

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