Snow accumulation in Vegas? Don't bet on it

All bets are off for Las Vegas snow accumulation.

For days now, the news media’s calls have come like Paul Revere was here on horseback, shouting: “The British are coming! The British are coming.”

This warning was different, but no less panic-stricken: “Batten down the hatches! Snow is coming to Las Vegas! On New Year's Eve! The horror!”

Frightful forecasts of high winds, freezing temperatures and 3 inches of snow to blanket the Las Vegas valley were bandied about like over-and-under lines at the sports book, just as an estimated 340,000 visitors were set to converge on Sin City for the annual holiday revelry.

Dust off the space heaters, the stories warned. Get out the de-icers at the airport. A major storm warning is in effect. 

“People celebrating the eve of the New Year in Las Vegas may be seeing more than confetti falling from the sky,” warned the Las Vegas Review Journal.

The Las Vegas Sun started counting the number of local snow plows (12), agonizing whether it would be enough, not to mention salt for the roads.

Even the website Gawker got into the act. “If Sin City's sports books took bets on the weather, snow in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve would normally have terrible odds,” it said. “It might pay out this year, though, if the white flurries start falling on an Eiffel Tower, a pyramid and a volcano come Wednesday.”

But like many bets here, this one didn’t exactly pan out.

Sure, the thermometer dropped into the low 30s. But not a speck of snow stuck to the ground.

“Initially, when we watched the storm evolve, it looked like we were in a better position to get more snow,” Chris Stachelski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Las Vegas, told The Times. “If we would have seen those kinds of snow totals verified, there would have been travel problems. Combined with New Year’s, it would have been a major event.”

Except it wasn’t. Not yet, anyway.

Still, the weather has Stachelski scratching his head. Just over a week ago, Vegas set a record with a 70-degree December day. He predicted that the midnight temperature will drop to 30 degrees – for just the third time over the holiday since 1990. The other two were in 1991 and 2011.

But as for snow, all bets are off.

“It’s not uncommon to see snow fall,” said Stachelski. “But to see it accumulate is something we only see every 10 years.”

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