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November 16, 2018

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Flooding forces several-day closure of Interstate 15 north of Las Vegas



A car is partially buried in mud on Interstate 15 in Moapa on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. The road is closed in both directions because of flood damage.

Updated Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014 | 1:13 a.m.

Moapa Flooding

A minivan is seen in floodwaters beneath Interstate 15 in Moapa, Nev., Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood emergency for the area. (AP Photo/John Locher) Launch slideshow »

Rainy Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip was unusually quiet on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, due to the day's heavy rain. Launch slideshow »
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Water rushes into the Las Vegas Wash on the Tropicana/Flamingo Wash trail between Jones Blvd. and Torrey Pines Drive as rain continued to fall in the Southwest part of the valley on September 8, 2014.

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A flash flood rages through the Linq parking garage and surrounding areas on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014.

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Flooding can be see in a Moapa backyard.

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A truck drives through storm runoff on Fort Apache Road.

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Rain runoff flows down an unfinished flood control project near Blue Diamond Road and Grand Canyon Monday, Sept. 8, 2014.

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Keala Alcisto, 3, jumps in a puddle while waiting for her brother and cousin at Forbuss Elementary School Monday, Sept. 8, 2014.

Heavy rainfall wreaked havoc on Southern Nevada roadways Monday, causing the closure of Interstate 15 northeast of Las Vegas for several days, at least.

I-15 is closed for a nearly 50-mile stretch from Apex to near Mesquite for a "minimum" of three to four days, Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman Sean Sever said, adding that agency staff and representatives from other states will meet Tuesday morning to formulate a game plan on repairing the washed-out stretches of highway.

Sever said rerouting traffic is made more difficult because officials don't yet know how passable alternate routes might be with the wet weather conditions.

U.S. 93 was closed temporarily at two points north of Las Vegas, while U.S. 95 was closed as of 1 a.m. Tuesday at mile marker 1, Laughlin junction, and traffic there was being diverted through Bullhead City, officials said.

The good news for transportation officials —and motorists needing to go to Utah — is that Tuesday's forecast calls for a "drying trend," although National Weather Service meteorologist John Adair says he couldn't rule out a storm cropping up in the morning in Clark County. Flood control officials said earlier that Moapa and the nearby towns of Overton and Logandale might be in for more flooding overnight due to runoff.

Monday's rain was caused by the remnants of Hurricane Norbert pushing into the desert Southwest. In Las Vegas, scenes of streets turning into waterways and washes carrying rivers of runoff were bountiful Monday afternoon as rain pummeled the valley.

Several people stranded in cars stalled out on waterlogged valley streets needed to be rescued, but no serious injuries were reported Monday in Southern Nevada.

The small Southern Nevada town of Moapa — at the heart of the I-15 closure — suffered the brunt of Monday's storm, described as the worst flooding in the area since 1981. More than four inches of rain poured on the town of about 1,000 people that's located in a sparsely populated rural area about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Erin Neff of the Clark County Regional Flood Control District said authorities are keeping an eye on the nearby Virgin River, which was pushed to near-flood stage.

"I cannot state this more clearly — it is a life-threatening emergency situation in Moapa," she said.

According to the National Weather Service, one of the washes that is supposed to drain near Glendale under the highway received about 5 inches of rain.

About 190 people from the Moapa River Reservation were sheltered after tribal police warned that the waters of the Muddy River were close to breaching a dam there, Neff said. Another fifteen people who worked at the Reid Gardner Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant near Moapa, sheltered in place during the afternoon.

No other formal evacuations were in place, although fire officials said about 40 people chose to leave their homes.

"We went up there and were there to assist people to evacuate, but they weren't forced to leave," Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jon Klassen said.

Homes and cars in Moapa were partially submerged in muddy waters.

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Loy Hixson said some vehicles on I-15 near Moapa were washed off the road.

Interstate 15 was closed between the Glendale-Moapa exit and Bunkerville, near the Arizona state line. Dozens of motorists and big rig truckers were stranded in the backup.

Rushing water covered the interstate with mud and debris in some sections and washed away about 1,000 feet of pavement in the southbound lanes.

I-15 was shut down at 4:41 p.m. between Hidden Valley to Riverside/Bunkerville due to "major flooding" according to Nevada Highway Patrol.

The I-15 has been completely washed out near mile marker 92. Mile marker 91 and 93 are experiencing flooding, including the Mesquite area towards the Virgin River campground.

On the Strip, the parking garage at the Quad flooded with water during the storm, and a person wearing a white construction helmet who tried to brave the current was swept out of the vehicle entrance. Fox 5 news posted a submitted video on its website that showed the person moving at the water's whim, and Caesars spokeswoman Debbie Munch confirmed the incident later.

"As a result of area rainfall today in Las Vegas, there was moving water under the Quad Hotel & Casino," Munch said in an email. "This afternoon, an individual dressed in construction worker attire attempted to walk through the moving water, lost his footing and was pulled from the water by construction workers before walking away."

At 7 p.m. there was still standing water in the Quad parking garage, but The Quad remained open along with all of the businesses at the Linq, Munch said. Guests were asked to use the Flamingo parking garage and valet.

A gush of rapidly moving water at least 6 inches deep and more than a block wide beneath the Linq's High Roller carried with it tree branches, water bottles and other debris.

Security guards at the retail center blocked off the area to traffic while pedestrians tip-toed their way around deep puddles and snapped photos of the muddy water.

With a muffled squeal, Ana Ele gingerly stepped onto a curb lined with running water.

"It's a hassle," said Ele, 36, who was headed to work Monday afternoon at the Linq. "I'm originally from the Philippines, and it's like this every day. I'm not very fond of it."

But for Wales resident Gwendoline Llordy-Hughes, who regularly vacations in Las Vegas, the unusual weather was a welcome treat as she and her partner strolled down the retail center.

"People don't expect it to rain in Vegas, do they?" she said. "I have no complaints."

The rainy weather seemed to dissuade tourists from walking along the normally packed Strip, which had just a sprinkling of pedestrians that afternoon.

Also Monday, storms swamped Phoenix with record rainfall for a single day, turning freeways into small lakes and sending rescuers scrambling to get drivers out of inundated cars.

At least two people died in the flooding, including a woman who was swept away in her car by rushing water and became trapped against a bridge. In addition, a 76-year-old woman drowned in floodwaters.

Strong thunderstorms also wreaked havoc in Southern California's deserts. Rescue crews answered more than 40 flood-related calls about stranded cars during the Monday morning commute in the La Quinta and Indian Wells areas near Palm Springs, Riverside County fire spokeswoman Jody Hagemann said. Numerous cars got stuck in high water on roads north and south of Interstate 10 in Coachella Valley, said Mike Radford, public information officer for the Indio CHP office.

Flash flooding in the southwest Las Vegas Valley impacted Rhodes Ranch, Mountain's Edge and Spring Valley as well as parts of the 215 Beltway and other urban roads, according to the weather service.

Also in the southwest, Wet 'n' Wild water park reported 1.10 inches of rain over just 30 minutes this afternoon.

The Clark County School District advised parents that the weather may delay school bus routes or cause stops to be moved from their regular locations.

Almost 3,000 NV Energy customers in Clark County were without power for about an hour before it was restored shortly after 4 p.m. Another outage began about 4:30 p.m. that affected residents in the far northern valley near Floyd Lamb Park. NV Energy officials did not estimate when power would be restored there.

A ground delay was issued at McCarran due to the rain, meaning arriving and departing flights there were delayed. Officials at the airport encouraged passengers to check with their airline for delay information.

Roadways across the valley were affected by the flooding.

Las Vegas city officials advised drivers to avoid certain roads until flooding subsides and debris is removed by city workers.

Grand Teton Driver and Decatur Boulevard, Decatur Boulevard between Oakey and Charleston Boulevards, and Lindell Road south of Sahara Avenue were considered danger areas.

City crews cleaned sullied roadways until nightfall and will continue cleanup work Tuesday morning.

There were 48 vehicle collisions in a five-hour stretch Monday afternoon, roughly five times the usual average, according to NHP.

The Associated Press and Sun reporters Tovin Lapan and Ana Ley contributed to this report.

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