Well, the entire Las Vegas Strip and downtown Fremont Street washed into the Gulf of Mexico. Your favorite slot machine? Gone. That friendly dealer or cute cocktail waitress? Washed away. Or so the national media practically had you believe. For the record, the heavy rains on July 8 lasted from about 11:00 AM to 4:30 PM and did cause problems for tourists. The Forum Shops and one pit area at Caesars had to be closed for 24 hours. The parking garage at Imperial Palace was closed until the rain stopped. The Strip itself had some high water, just high enough to run over the sidewalk and into Steve Wynn’s lake. A few shows were cancelled because suburban traffic snarls prevented people from getting in to work. Certainly an inconvenience for tourists who were unlucky enough to be in town, but they walked away with a story they can tell the grandkids.
The suburbs didn’t quite fare as well. 3 mobile home owners found out that they don’t float very well. 7 homes were destroyed. Somewhere around 100 homes and a couple hundred cars sustained flood damage. 2 people died: one in a weather-related car wreck just as the storm started and the other a homeless man who had been camping in the wash (our version of a creek) when the flash flood apparently washed him away. Because of mud on some streets and the general conditions from heavy rain, the evening commute wasn’t pretty and every Las Vegan out driving during the deluge has a story about how a 30 minute drive took 4 hours. But, just as quickly as it came, it was gone.
By 8:00 PM, people were playing tennis, driving around on errands (despite the occasional detour around a mud-filled road), and getting back to normal. As of this writing, it appears that FEMA probably won’t be offering much if any aid because while spectacular, the damage was not widespread. We feel deeply sorry for people affected by the loss of life and damage to property, but when you consider that this area has well over a million people (gee, you don’t all live on the Strip?), 99% of the population felt no residual effects and July 8, 1999 will just remembered as the day of the “big flood”. If you want to read the local coverage and see pictures, the Las Vegas Sun has photos online: Las Vegas Flood – July 8, 1999
This article originally appeared July 14, 1999 in the Access Vegas Insider Vibe