Tech upgrades give officials better handle on imminent floods

Monsoon

Floodwaters rage through the Las Vegas valley.

The images from 20 years ago are still seared into the minds of many, including firefighters working on July 8, 1999.

“When I got to Rainbow, it was just a wall of water coming down Charleston,” Tim Szymanski of Las Vegas Fire and Rescue said. “I’d never seen anything like that.”

But officials today are more prepared for flooding, thanks to huge advances in technology and equipment.

“These events are going to happen and we have to be ready,” Todd Lericos, Meteorologist-In-Charge at the National Weather Service in Las Vegas, said.

The National Weather Service completed a $145 million upgrade to their radar network, allowing meteorologists to peer inside thunderstorms for better rainfall predictions.

“We’ve increased the accuracy of our warnings by 45 percent,” Lericos said. “And we’ve increased our lead time on those warnings by over 20 minutes.

“That helps give us a little bit of extra time before that water hits the ground and runs off as flood, for us to warn people.”

The Clark County Regional Flood Control District plans to invest $2 billion over the next 20 years to add dozens more detention basins and hundreds of miles of channels.

But the money will also go toward new equipment.

Larry Brown, chairman of the Regional Flood Control District, said, “Our water gauges that measure the rainfall, the technology that gives the signals from the far northwest into the main office here, so that technology needs to constantly be upgraded.”

And technology gives as a first-hand view of what it would be like to be trapped in a car carried away by floodwaters.

The flood district released a virtual reality experience, timed with the anniversary of the 100-year flood.

You can experience the VR video here.

“It’s elevating that storytelling capability so that you’re not just talking and showing pictures, you’re actually immersing someone in the actual experience,” Thomas Madrid, director of digital services at Robertson and Partners, said.

It’s a high-tech way for the public to prep as experts keep their eyes on the skies.

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