Who knew Nevada could be such a hotbed of interesting weather?
Las Vegas saw a record number of thunderstorm days in July. There were 10 days of thunder heard in Las Vegas, which broke the old record of nine set in 1937!
— NWS Las Vegas (@NWSVegas) August 6, 2014
And on Monday afternoon, a rare tornado touched down in Clark County, Nevada’s southernmost county which includes the city of Las Vegas. The tornado appeared for around 30 seconds near Highway 95 southeast of Boulder City before lifting. The National Weather Service estimates the twister was only an EF-0, but nonetheless surprising for a state that is typically low on tornadoes.
According to Storm Prediction Center tornado reports, only 12 tornadoes have been reported in Clark County since the 1960s. The most recent tornado in the county occurred in April of 2011. Nevada has the fewest number of tornado reports of continental U.S. states west of the Mississippi, with 80. (Delaware, Rhode Island, and Vermont all have fewer. Alaska has the fewest, with four.)
If that’s not enough, flash flooding swept cars away in southern Nevada on Tuesday after heavy downpours. The video above shows folks trying to convince people who are trying to rescue their car to get out of the water as another vehicle is pushed toward them. At the end of the video, once of the men nearly gets swept away as he crosses the strongest part of the newly formed highway river.
The North American Monsoon can be blamed for all this crazy Nevada weather since it began to push moisture into the region in July. The monsoon is a seasonal reversal of winds in the Southwest U.S. As the mountains of Mexico and the southwest U.S. heat up, low level wind jets push moist air northward. While monsoon rainfall (which is nothing compared to the monsoons of India and east Asia) is often beneficial to the normally dry Southwest, it can also spur heavy downpours and flash flooding, as we saw in Colorado in 2013.