LAS VEGAS — The lights on the 130,000-square-foot video screen came back on shortly before 11 a.m. Friday, showing computer codes rebooting instead of the usual spectacle visitors expect on the LED canopy hanging over the pedestrian mall at the Fremont Street Experience.
Outside, lightning knocked out power to the external lights on several downtown hotels, including the Golden Nugget. There were heavily dripping light fixtures at Caesars Palace, a shower inside Planet Hollywood, and floodwaters that made the parking garage at the Linq hotel look more like a white-water rapids course. One gamer at the Fremont Hotel and Casino kept playing right through the deluge.
The Weather Service in Las Vegas warned of wind gusts approaching 70 mph, urging Twitter followers to “Take shelter now!” Las Vegas Fire and Rescue tweeted that it responded to 330 calls for service, mostly related to weather, and rescued seven people in swift water.
Multiple intersections were flooded. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that more than 7,000 customers were facing power outages after 10 p.m.
Emi Gross, a burlesque showgirl street performer, was working on the Strip when the hard rains started to fall.
“It got crazy,” the 19-year-old said. “I’ve never worked as a showgirl in weather like this.”
After about a half-hour of downpour, she says her bosses called her back to the office, a few miles off the Strip. “We booked it to the car,” Gross said. “We were in the garage at the Venetian and we still had to have the windshield wipers on because the rain was blowing in sideways. We could hardly see.”
She said that while driving back to the office in the rain, the road was littered with stalled-out cars.
“I’ve lived in Vegas my whole life and have never seen anything like this before,” she said.
Betting activity was mostly back to normal Friday morning, and casino executives were considering improvements necessary to deal with future weather events.
The display for the Fremont Street Experience lit up as bodies flying past on zip lines run by Slotzilla. The sky was completely clear and cloudless. Workers set up music stages. The typical smell of cannabis permeated the unusually humid air.
“We’re open for business,” said casino owner Derek Stevens, whose Circa resort had a sportsbook video wall turn into a flickering fountain that spilled into a pool collecting water on the carpeted lower level.
A soccer match and golf tournament on Circa’s screens had large blacked-out areas from the damage, with a section of betting odds and game times pixelated beyond recognition. Workers with tape measures circled damaged areas of the roped-off pit, and a 6-foot fan led a group of smaller blowers.
Instead of seeping into the desert terrain, storm water tends to accumulate in Las Vegas, meaning relatively little precipitation can lead to flooding. Mayor Carolyn Goodman tweeted Friday to tout “flood control infrastructure” that quickly moves water to Lake Mead.
The monsoon-triggered storms prompted the National Weather Service to issue both severe thunderstorm and flash flood warnings Thursday night. Radar showed a narrow but intense corridor of storms that swept into Vegas around 8:30 p.m. local time from the north.
Harry Reid International Airport received 0.32 inches of rain — around its average amount for the entire month of July — while “a couple pockets of town picked up over an inch,” the Weather Service wrote.
Thursday marked the city’s second night of monsoonal storms, with more expected across the Southwest, according to the National Weather Service.
On the other side of the country, disastrous flooding in Eastern Kentucky has killed at least 16 people since Wednesday. Historic rainfall around St. Louis on Tuesday led to flash flooding that killed one person. Both downpours are considered 1-in-1,000 year rain events.
Dan Michalski reported from Las Vegas. Jason Samenow and Gabe Hiatt reported from D.C.