LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — When a 100-year flood hit the Las Vegas valley on July 8, 1999, it left a path of destruction and claimed two lives.
The Flamingo Wash became a raging river that destroyed homes in the Miracle Mile Mobile Home Park on Boulder Highway, Near Sandhill Road and Sahara Avenue. The storm caused one of the worst floods in the history of Las Vegas.
The flooding and damage was a wake up call to the Las Vegas valley.
“It was crazy. It was scary because of the waters. It was like a rushing river. It was just powerful,” said former Mayor Oscar Goodman.
He remembers that day well and says it was one of the most frightening days of his life.
“Since I lived here in 1964 up until that time in 1999, I don’t recall a flood of that magnitude,” he said.
Goodman was just sworn in for his first term as mayor and says he had no clue about what monsoon season really meant.
“It was something that we weren’t used to and didn’t know how to cope with it,” he said. “I recall some poor homeless folks who used to sleep in the culvert and the floodwaters just took them up and that was the end of them.”
Meteorologists called the storm a 100-year flood, meaning an event that has a 1 percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.
Clark County Commsioner Larry Brown vividly remembers that day.
At the time of the ’99 floods, he was working with the Clark County Regional Flood Control District.
“So, you saw literally the entire mobile home unit being swept into the flood water,” Brown said. “But what was remarkable was the intensity of the storm. There were parts in our system that we were getting 2 1/2 inches of rain in a two-hour window, by our gages.”
That’s over half of the annual rainfall in a two-hour period. A lot of things that were never seen before, occurred that day.
“It was widespread, it was valley wide and there were hundreds of rescues. There was helicopter rescues, a firefighter unit at the city gets stuck,” Brown said.
Both Brown and Goodman say we’ve come a long way.
“We’re in much better shape today that we were 20 years ago and I think our community has become far more educated on the danger of floods,” Brown said.
“We’ve learned during the monsoon season here to be very, very careful. When they give you a warning on TV and tell you not to go out because it’s a possibility that floods will take place here, listen to it,” Goodman said.
“Water always wins and a storm event — especially floodwaters — may not look as much, but absolutely can sweep any kind of vehicle,” Brown said. “Just be smart. Make good decisions and don’t challenge Mother Nature. You’re going to lose.
“You have to almost live through it in order to know how to adjust to it … if you could ever adjust to it,” Goodman said.
While a large portion of Clark County is now protected by detention basins and channels to capture excess water, there are some vulnerable areas that still need work.