When you think of the Las Vegas Strip, you probably think of neon lights, waves of people, and sweltering desert heat. But what if, instead, you were looking at the Strip as a winter wonderland?
That might sound like a fantasy, but 10 years ago this month, it was a breathtaking and surprising reality. In December of 2008, the Las Vegas Strip was hit by a historic snow storm. It’s an ideal time to look back at what it was like when it snowed on the Strip.
A Record Snowfall
Record-setting snowfalls take place all the time. However, one location’s record is another location’s Tuesday. Something that sets a record in Las Vegas wouldn’t even register as significant in a place like Buffalo where snowfalls can top three feet thanks to the city’s proximity to the Great Lakes.
The 2008 snowstorm dropped as much as 10 inches in some parts of the valley. For an area that’s not accustomed to getting any snow at all, that’s a catastrophic amount – and as you might expect, it left both city residents and tourists stunned.
The storm started on December 16th and lasted several days in some parts of the valley. Most of the snowfall on the Strip itself occurred on December 17th. McCarran Airport measured a total of 3.6 inches of the white stuff, which might not seem like much until you realize how ill-equipped the city was to cope with it.
The previous snowfall record for the area was set in 1949, which approximately 9.7 inches fell in a two-day period.
Delays and Inconveniences
While some in Las Vegas enjoyed the novelty of the record snowfall, others were deeply inconvenienced by the uncharacteristic weather.
At McCarran Airport, planes were grounded because of the inclement weather and some flights were canceled. For those looking to get into or out of the city, the weather was far from welcome.
The snow also led to some road closures. Highway 95 was shut down from Railroad Pass to the border of California. State Route 160 was closed between Pahrump and Las Vegas, and Interstate 15 was closed at Primm.
Students in Clark County School District got a rare snow day as the district canceled school for the first time in nearly 30 years. The last snow day had been in 1979 when more than eight inches fell in Las Vegas and the surrounding valley.
A Speedy Departure
As you might expect in Las Vegas, the snowfall didn’t stick around for long. Things were soon back to normal, and residents were left with the memory of the time their hot desert city was covered in a blanket of fresh, white snow.
The rarity of snow in Las Vegas made the 2008 storm a memorable one. Many of the young adults living in Las Vegas today were children when the storm hit. They have fond memories of their rare snow day and of the fun they had playing in the white drifts.
There’s no way to know whether the Strip will get snow this winter. But if it does, it will inevitably be compared to the great storm of 2008.
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Watch a video from 2008 of the oncoming snowfall in Vegas: