Published Monday, Dec. 29, 2014 | 9:49 a.m.
Updated Monday, Dec. 29, 2014 | 6:15 p.m.
Forecasters today said the chance of a New Year’s Eve snow looks less certain as updated weather models show less moisture in the area for the next few days.
“It’s not looking as promising,” said Jim Harrison, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. “There’s pretty good potential the main area of snow will be east of here.”
The weather service on Sunday issued a winter storm watch for Tuesday night until early New Year’s Day, predicting snow for elevations above 2,000 feet.
As of Monday, the chance for snow early Wednesday was still 80 percent at McCarran International Airport.
Even with the cold weather warning, Las Vegas can expect a lot of visitors for the end of the year celebration.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is expecting about 340,000 visitors in town for New Year's Eve, spokeswoman Dawn Christensen said. The non-gaming economic impact from New Year's Eve celebrations is expected to be about $225 million.
Christensen said the LVCVA believes tourism will stay consistent with past New Year's Eve celebrations despite the cold weather and possibility of snow, pointing out that most tourists make their plans in advance. She also said such rare winter weather could be seen as a bonus for visitors.
"It really could be a once-in-a-lifetime New Year's Eve for people," she said.
David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV, said he believes it's unlikely the weather would have an impact on Strip businesses unless major infrastructure or flights to Las Vegas were affected.
He agreed that the chance for snow could work in the city's favor.
"I think the possibility of snow might be a novelty for some people," he said.
But forecasters are trying to temper excitement over the rare chance of snowfall by warning the public that snow is one of the hardest weather elements to predict. Temperatures must be ideal and it is difficult for snow to accumulate in the desert.
Harrison said the brunt of the winter storm will likely hit Mohave County in Arizona.
There is one thing forecasters are certain about — the cold will continue.
The mercury dipped to 30 degrees at McCarran early today, making this the coldest night of the winter season. It was also the latest first freeze of any winter season in Las Vegas. The previous record was set Dec. 20, 2012.
Forecasters are anticipating a high of 50 degrees today, though temperatures will cool throughout the week, Harrison said.
The high for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day is expected to be 38 degrees, with lows near 30 degrees. The weather should warm up by Saturday, with highs near 57 degrees.
The Las Vegas office of the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch from Tuesday through Thursday this week. Night-time temperatures are expected to drop below freezing on New Year’s Eve night through Friday night when the coldest temperature of the week is expected to be about 28 degrees. Snow also is a possibility from Wednesday afternoon through the morning of New Year’s Day, according to the Weather Service.
Clark County officials urge residents to plan ahead for the cold weather by dressing warm, covering delicate plants and preparing for the chance of snowy roads.
“A temperature of 32 degrees or less in our desert climate can present dangers that many residents aren’t accustomed to,” Clark County Emergency Manager John Steinbeck said in a prepared statement. “We encourage residents and visitors alike to keep a close watch on the weather this week and plan for cold weather and possibly hazardous driving conditions if snow occurs in the Valley or outlying areas.”
Steinbeck offered the following tips for dealing with the cold:
• When outside in cold temperatures, wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in layers. Clothing made of wool or synthetic fibers such as polypropylene offers more insulation than cotton. Outer garments should be tightly-woven, water repellent and have a hood.
• Protect pipes from freezing by:
• Wrapping pipes in insulation or layers of newspaper and then covering them with plastic to keep out moisture.
Letting faucets drip slightly.
Do not use gas-powered appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home.
Use extreme caution while driving in winter storms.
• Drive slowly and allow for greater braking distances.
• Accelerate and brake gradually.
• Warm the car up before leaving.
• Always take the time to clean off snow and ice from vehicle windows to increase visibility.
• If coming from remote areas, drive with a full tank of gas and a cell phone. Also carry blankets, water, and sustainable food.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority says pool owners can prevent freezing by monitoring their systems and keeping equipment running continually or at least until mid-morning.
To prevent surface freezing, adjust any pool and spa jets upwards, and maintain proper water levels at all times.
Protect furry friends during the cold weather by keeping them indoors, if possible. If pets are kept outside, making sure they have access to draft-free shelter that is elevated off the ground.
If you are using anti-freeze or any salts to mitigate snow, keep pets away.
Las Vegas Sun reporter Katie Visconti contributed to this report.