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September 2, 2014

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Stranded? Vehicle under water? Swift-water rescuers are on the way!

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Sam Morris

An unidentified man sits on top of his vehicle after he tried to cross flooded Boulder Highway near Russell Road on July 8, 1999. The man’s car was eventually caught up in the water, which washed it downstream and forced a helicopter rescue of the motorist.

As record rainfall poured in the Las Vegas Valley on Tuesday, local firefighters and rescue teams assisted stranded motorists and responded to dozens of swift-water rescue calls. We take a look back at some of the notable swift-water rescues during the past two decades:

    • Aug. 8, 1994

      A swift-water rescue under the U.S. 95 Expressway at Jones Boulevard topped an evening of scattered heavy rain in Southern Nevada, most of it falling in northwest Las Vegas. Las Vegas firefighters and a Metro Police search-and-rescue unit were called about 7:30 p.m. to the scene where Joe and Audrey Argostino of Las Vegas were sitting on the roof of their car, which was nearly submerged in water.

    • Jan. 4, 1995

      During heavy rains, Clark County Fire Department rescue crews were called about 5:30 p.m. to the far side of the Imperial Palace parking garage at Wittig Avenue and Audrie Street, where a motorist trying to drive across and into a street was stranded in several feet of water. As rapid water carrying silt, branches and other debris swirled about the car and into the Flamingo Wash, the water level rose to the windshield and engulfed the vehicle.

    • Aug. 11, 1997

      A severe thunderstorm hit the east side of the valley, causing more than 4,200 Henderson homes to lose power and leaving major damage to roadways and washed-out bridges in the area.

      Near a drainage ditch behind Sam Boyd Stadium off Boulder Highway, the Clark County Fire Department's swift-water rescue team broke through the windshield to pull a woman's limp body from a car submerged up to its hood in floodwaters. The 20-year-old woman was transported to Desert Springs Hospital, having suffered apparent hypothermia. She apparently had fallen unconscious after driving into the flooded area.

    • July 20, 1998

      A severe electrical storm swept through the Las Vegas Valley, dumping several inches of rain, causing power outages, road closures, fires and at least one death.

      The Clark County Fire Department around 7 a.m. made a swift-water rescue of a woman who clung to reeds in the wash near Sam Boyd Stadium off Tropicana Avenue, where her vehicle had become trapped in raging floodwater. Firefighters made three swift-water rescues between 3 and 6 p.m. at Durango Drive and Desert Inn Road. Also, police pulled two cars from beneath floodwaters at the Charleston underpass.

      During the storm, two disasters struck the Palace Station, as the roof caved in, sending a beam smashing into gaming tables and a wooden facade on the tower caught fire. Both the casino and hotel were evacuated during the incidents.

    • Aug. 19, 2003

      A sudden rainstorm left northwest Las Vegas streets several inches under water – and in many areas several feet under water. Some motorists abandoned their cars and walked home through water up to their thighs. Others tried driving through the rising and rapid currents. Many in that group ended up on their car roofs, waiting to be rescued by swift-water rescue teams

      Aug. 16, 2004

      Clark County Fire Department rescue crews plucked several people out of waters rushing across the valley during the height of a short intense storm.

      Three swift-water rescues occurred within a 45-minute period at Charleston Boulevard and Hualapai Avenue, Flamingo Road and Swenson Avenue and Rainbow Boulevard and Spring Valley Drive. A swift-water rescue at 3:30 p.m. on Tropicana Avenue and Industrial Road began after a passerby saw a man swept down the wash.

    • Dec. 28 – 29, 2004

      Severe thunderstorms flooded roadways and prompted the closure of at least nine area intersections and made countless other streets impassable. Clark County firefighters stayed busy responding to 29 swift-water rescues from cars that had become stuck in deep water.

    • Aug. 7, 2008

      A powerful storm hit the Las Vegas valley, causing flooding to businesses and prompting road closures. State Route 160 was closed for more than an hour, and some areas of U.S. 95 were under two feet of water. Henderson firefighters performed several swift-water rescues and saved a 12-year-old boy from a wash near Patrick Lane and Stephanie Road, where the boy had been skateboarding.

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    1. You folks that don't use the common sense that God gave a rock need to start thinking about someone besides yourself.

      First off you could have been killed or you could have killed others because you did not pull over and wait for a bit.

      Then first responders have to risk their lives to save your sorry self. They could have been killed or hurt because you did not think.

      The cost to all of this was huge because of the air support and crews out saving people that don't think about anyone else.

      I hope you all sit home and think now that your cars are ruined and you have to tell your insurance company just how stupid you are. Wonder why insurance goes up?

      Your actions effect more then just you. Think next time.