by Peter Mertz
DENVER, United States, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Las Vegas, one of the driest cities in the United States, got the biggest washout, but throughout the U.S. Southwest, heavy rains and winds welcomed the annual monsoon season, spelling a relief to record drought conditions, leaving residual damage.
"The sky opened up across the Las Vegas metro on Thursday night, and heavy rainfall turned streets and sidewalks along the iconic Las Vegas Strip into raging rivers as flash flooding developed," AccuWeather, a weather-forecasting service agency, reported on Saturday, adding that some visitors to the city were left stranded or scrambling to seek shelter.
Meanwhile, according to local media report, at least 16,000 residents suffering power shortage in the Las Vegas Valley on Friday night due to monsoon rains that targeted the region.
Data from the National Weather Service (NWS) showed that the storm on Thursday night brought an inch (2.54 cm) of rain, wind gusts over 70 mph, which flooded casinos and nightclubs along Vegas' storied strip.
Social media posts showed flooding inside iconic Planet Hollywood and Caesars Palace, Circa Sports and the Golden Gate in downtown Las Vegas. Online posts also indicated light flooding at the Fremont Street Experience.
"Intense summer thunderstorms that drenched parts of Las Vegas -- causing water to cascade from casino ceilings and pool on the carpet of a stadium-sized sports betting area," a NWS official said Friday.
"Last night's weather took Vegas by storm, and we were no exception," Circa owner Derek Stevens said in a Twitter post on Friday.
All of the venues flooded Thursday night had been cleaned and mopped on Saturday, casino owners posted Saturday, anxious to get business rolling again.
However, clean-up crews worked Saturday in Las Vegas nervously looking at the sky as more rain was predicted.
Apart from that, several crashes on Nevada highways were reported by the state's regional transportation commission on Twitter and the flood control district said that water depth had risen to over 16 feet (about 4.87 m) in the Tropicana Detention Basin near Russell Road and Decatur Boulevard.
The annual monsoon weather pattern has brought a parade of storms across the U.S. Southwest in recent weeks that lead to flooding in normally dry washes, rain measured in inches and rescue operations, the Associated Press reported.
From the Rocky Mountain town of Marble, Colorado, to Apache Junction, Arizona, east of Phoenix, some 620 miles (about 998 km) away, dark clouds hovered over dry desert land at high and low elevations, causing rain and flooding.
In Arizona, a driver had to be rescued from a vehicle caught in floodwaters in Apache Junction, where high waters flowed through the town, and stranded, flooded homes and damaged businesses.
"It was really bad. It was crazy," the 12 News headline read after the rising waters made homes and businesses look like tiny islands surrounded by moats that were once streets, as posted on Twitter.
Parts of the Hualapai Mountains in Mohave County have received up to 6 inches (15.2 cm) of rain in recent days, the NWS said, and that "parts of Arizona can expect 1 (2.5 cm) to 2 (5 cm) inches of rain per hour before a flood watch expired Saturday morning."
A youth conservation crew abandoned the red truck they were riding in at Canyon de Chelly National Monument on the Navajo Nation when it got stuck in the mud and water rose around it, according to the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, that also rescued a woman who was clinging to a stop sign earlier this week after her car was swept away, local media reported.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday the Federal Emergency Management Agency granted a request to include effects of flooding and mudslides in certain counties hit by massive wildfires this year to the state's disaster declaration.
In northern Arizona, the towns of Heber, Show Low, Bellemont and Prescott, are near or above 200 percent of normal rainfall so far during the monsoon, the NWS said.
In Utah, "despite recent monsoons that have brought much-needed rain to some areas of the state, hot, bone dry conditions continue to bake our parched vegetation," Joel Ferry, acting executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, said on Friday morning.
Even with scattered rain, Ferry warned residents about the risk of wildfires, that have plagued the region for the past decade. ■