If you're driving to Las Vegas for New Year's Eve, prepare to be sideswiped by winter storms approaching Southern California and southern Nevada, according to a National Weather Service forecast at midday Monday.
Snow may materialize in Las Vegas, but cold weather will certainly affect partyers on New Year's Eve. Temperatures are expected to drop to 30 degrees. The predicted brisk wind could make that feel more like 20.
A winter storm watch is in effect for the Las Vegas Valley from Tuesday through Thursday. Snow is forecast along the Strip on Wednesday, when thousands of partyers gather to ring in the new year.
"Anywhere from a trace to an inch and a half" of snow will greet revelers along Las Vegas Boulevard, National Weather Service meteorologist Nathan Foster said Monday.
"There's still some question as to how much moisture will reach the area," he said.
Foster said there would be significant snowfall at higher elevations. He said all of the mountain passes along Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas can expect snow. He predicted 3 to 4 inches for Mountain Pass, which is at 4,730 feet about 15 miles west of the California-Nevada state line.
That mountain snow, Foster said, will create hazardous driving conditions, probably beginning Tuesday evening and continuing through Wednesday.
Road crews in southern Nevada are ill prepared to plow snow at lower elevations, including the Strip, which is about 2,200 feet above sea level.
"It's very rare for snow to be an issue here," said Stacey Welling, a representative for Clark County, Nev. "The county has two snowplows, which are typically based in the higher elevations."
Welling said the Nevada Department of Transportation could deploy additional plows if requested.
The last major snowfall in the Las Vegas Valley occurred six years ago, according to National Weather Service statistics. About 3.5 inches fell along the Strip on Dec. 17, 2008, with 8 to 10 inches recorded in parts of suburban Henderson. That storm resulted in flight delays at McCarran International Airport, just east of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Updates on this winter storm will be posted on the weather service website.