Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010 | 9:35 a.m.
When the clock strikes midnight to ring in 2011, the thermometer will be near 34.
New Year's Eve revelers celebrating the new year on Las Vegas' biggest night will be in for a chill, according to the National Weather Service, which released projected temperatures for the start of 2011. A strong winter storm will knock temperatures down 8 to 12 degrees below normal, forecasters said.
According to weather service estimates, the temperature in Las Vegas will be a chilly 34 degrees to start the new year. Elsewhere in the region, Mesquite will be at 31 degrees, Laughlin at 33 and Pahrump at 25, the weather service said.
Visitors to Mount Charleston will usher in 2011 amid temperatures near 12 degrees. Headed to Caliente, Nev.? The mercury will be about 7.
The New Year's Eve temperature could set a record in Las Vegas. The chilliest high temperature on Dec. 31 in Las Vegas occurred in 1975, when the mercury topped out at 45 degrees. Forecasters expect Friday's high to reach only 44, which would make it the coldest high temperature on New Year's Eve since records have been kept.
The reason for the winter chill is a strong low pressure system over the Pacific Northwest that will dive southeast into the Las Vegas area on Wednesday.
After partly sunny skies today in Las Vegas with a high in the mid-50s, rain and snow will be on the increase Wednesday. Forecasters said a chance of rain will enter the forecast about 4 a.m. Wednesday with winds gusting to 20 mph during the afternoon.
The chance of rain in Las Vegas is 80 percent, forecasters said.
Snow showers will be possible across the entire valley as temperatures drop late Wednesday and into Thursday morning. Highs will stay in the mid-40s Thursday through Saturday with lows in the upper 20s.
Forecasters said light snow will be possible at elevations as low as 1,500 feet. The chance of snow in the valley is 20 percent, but little or no accumulation is expected, the weather service said.
It's a different story in the mountains of Southern Nevada.
A winter storm warning has replaced a winter storm watch in higher elevations as the weather system barrels toward the region. The storm warning was posted for all of Lincoln County and areas of Clark County above 5,000 feet from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The weather service said 8 to 12 inches of snow could fall above 7,000 feet, with 4 to 8 inches between 5,000 and 7,000 feet. Southwest winds of 20 to 30 mph will gust to 45 mph in the mountains.
"Snow will make travel difficult or impossible," the weather service said in a statement. "Visibility will also be reduced with whiteout conditions possible at times in the mountains. The combined weight of this snow with older snow may result in weaker trees bending or breaking."
The average high in Las Vegas in late December is 56 degrees with an average low of 35, according to weather service records.