Snowflakes were flying in Las Vegas Thursday morning for the third time this month. This round even resulted in accumulation, turning it into a winter wonderland and marking the first measurable snowfall in the city in more than a decade.
Areas close to the famed Las Vegas Strip have picked up considerably more, with as much as six to 10 inches reported in higher elevations to the west and northwest of downtown.
In addition to the unusual and beautiful scenes of a snowy desert, the precipitation has led to travel troubles in the region.
Snow fell continuously at McCarran International Airport — where official observations are taken for Las Vegas — for more than seven hours, from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. At times, visibility dropped to three-quarters of a mile. A few flurries were still happening shortly after sunrise and beginning to mix with rain as temperatures rose into the mid-30s.
Given the snowfall and cold temperatures associated with it, the airport is leading the nation in flight delays. Aircraft landings were behind schedule by an average of more than two hours Thursday morning, leading to a number of delayed departures and cancellations. The FAA recommends contacting your airline to see whether your flight is affected.
A number of fender benders have been reported in the region because of the snow and icy conditions overnight into early morning. Las Vegas schools are open, although several other school districts in the region have closed for the day, as have a number of businesses and Nellis Air Force Base.
Officially, a half-inch accumulated before the clock struck midnight Wednesday. This made it the first time snow has piled up to more than a trace since December 17, 2008; 3.6 inches came down in that memorable storm!
The half inch recorded Wednesday was enough for a daily record. A one-day maximum snowfall for Las Vegas of 7.4 inches came on Jan. 31, 1979. The most snow on record in a season fell in 1949, when 16.7 inches was recorded.
This stretch without accumulation downtown concludes the longest stretch there on record without any appreciable snow in Vegas at 3,717 days.
Although it was the first one with accumulation officially, it is also the third episode this month where snow has been observed — even if very little or none stuck in earlier instances. Thursday morning’s wintry precipitation had an easier time accumulating, thanks to temperatures hovering around freezing, which also set a record low for the date.
Less than 10 miles to the northwest of the Las Vegas Strip, much higher snowfall totals have been reported. Summerlin, along the western portion of the Vegas Beltway has picked up more than seven inches, with snow still falling Thursday morning.
The cold pocket of air and its associated storminess over the region begins to pull away Thursday night into Friday morning. This is the same impressive storm system that is slated to deliver severe weather and more flooding to the Ohio and Tennessee valleys over the weekend.
Meanwhile, another unusual spectacle could occur before the low-elevation snow in the west winds down. The National Weather Service in Los Angeles is calling for snow levels in Southwest California to drop as low as 1,500 feet. If conditions align just right, that could bring a flaky dusting to the Hollywood sign, which resides at 1,578 feet elevation.