Las Vegas Sun

February 13, 2016

Currently: 73° — Complete forecast

ASK MR. SUN:

Las Vegas snow emergency

Sun coverage

If Las Vegas were blanketed by a foot of snow that lingered for days, what emergency steps could be taken to dig us out? Some states call out the National Guard if they are overwhelmed. Is that an option in Nevada? Or have the two wars depleted the equipment here too much? Does Steve Wynn have a snowplow?

Plan A is to leave it to Mr. Sun to clear the roads. Seriously.

On Dec. 11, local authorities held an emergency response exercise. Their prescient scenario included a storm similar to the 1974 front that dumped 9 inches of snow on Southern Nevada.

After analyzing their options, authorities concluded that waiting for sunshine to clear the roads is best.

“The posture would be to wait for the melt,” said Jim O’Brien, manager of Clark County’s emergency management and homeland security office. “We lack that capability in Southern Nevada for snow removal — Clark County Public Works has two snowplows and they’re dedicated to the higher elevations, the Nevada Department of Transportation has a handful, also dedicated to higher elevations.”

(Even if Southern Nevada had more plows, O’Brien said, the blades would scrape the Botts’ Dots — those buttons that mark lanes — off the roads, causing costly damage.)

“Traffic will typically keep the road surface clear if we don’t have icy conditions,” O’Brien said.

Plan B would be to declare an emergency and turn to the state for assistance. “That’s assuming other areas of the state aren’t contending with the same storm,” O’Brien said.

The state could offer its resources, including the Nevada National Guard. There are about 3,600 guardsmen in the state. Only about 200 are currently deployed.

“The rest would ostensibly be available to assist,” Nevada National Guard spokeswoman April Conway said.

Plan C would be to ask neighboring states for a hand.

“Luckily, this is an event that happens only about every 30 years,” O’Brien said.

Questions for Mr. Sun should be sent to page8@lasvegassun.com.

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