They weren’t exactly deploying the snowplows onto the Las Vegas Strip and they weren’t shoveling out the entrances to the casinos, either.
But, still, it snowed in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
For a city that was built in the sand and boasts giant replicas of a pyramid, the Eiffel Tower and virtually the entire borough of Manhattan, it was met with wonderment and surprise in a place not easily bowled over.
“Um, what the…..” tweeted the Nevada Highway Patrol above a 10-second video of snow falling lightly beneath the orange glow of a street lamp.
Then came the National Weather Service in Las Vegas about two hours later.
“IT HAPPENED!” the weather service tweeted.
An avalanche of tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts followed. The National Weather Service in Seattle noticed and quickly commissioned a poll asking people how they felt about Las Vegas getting snow. “We just couldn't help but share a little of our snow with our friends at @NWSVegas!” they tweeted.
It wasn’t long before social media posts with pictures and videos of the falling snow spurred people to head out and experience it in the real world.
Steve and Jackie DeLeon grabbed sleds that had been gathering dust in the garage for 10 years and drove out to a park in the west part of town. Their two children, 8-year-old Catalina and 15-year-old Daytona, trudged up a hill covered in white and settled into the sleds.
The snow was coming down in big flakes. It was past 9 p.m. and the temperature was 32 degrees. The Michigan natives, who have lived in Las Vegas for 15 years, said this didn’t compare with what they experienced in Saginaw.
But it would do.
“We couldn’t pass up this opportunity,” Jackie DeLeon said. “This just doesn’t happen too often.”
The two kids screamed as the sled took off down the slick hill, gathering speed until it shot past the sidewalk at the base and came to a stop. They picked it up and began walking up the hill again next to the track left by the sled — which had exposed some grass.
Not far away, a man stood on the pitcher’s mound of a snow-covered baseball field and fired a small snowball toward home plate.
Throughout the valley, parked cars slowly began to develop snow beards on front bumpers. Trees glistened with snow. Gamblers who had come in from the snow chatted with dealers about it between hands and dice rolls. The lights at the new baseball stadium for the minor league team, the Aviators, lighted up a soft cascade of snow falling onto its field.
The roadways around the city and along Interstate 15 were mostly wet and the Nevada Highway Patrol urged people to drive carefully and look out for black ice. By Monday morning, a section of I-15 was closed for a few hours between St. Rose Parkway and the unincorporated town of Primm because of multiple accidents related to ice, the Nevada Highway Patrol reported.
National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Outler said it was uncommon for the snowfall to be as widespread as it was in Las Vegas valley.
In the community of Summerlin, which borders Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area — the weather service said some parts got up to 2.5 inches and the scenic drive was closed until late Monday morning. Mt. Charleston, which is about 45 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, got more than 3.5 inches of snow and the ski resort has all 26 of its trails open.
Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said snowplows had been sent to clear roads at Mount Charleston. Yes, there are snowplows in Clark County. Four, to be exact.
In the south end of the city, near the M Resort Spa and Casino, 1 to 2 inches were reported. McCarran International Airport, the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Fremont Street reported traces of sticking snow.
Gabriella Muno, spokeswoman at the airport, said no flights were delayed or halted because of the weather.
The snow was not unprecedented. In 2008, the airport got more than 3 inches. That dump caused delays to flights because of low visibility, and stranded some travelers overnight.
But snowfall totals like those in 2008 are unusual for Las Vegas.
This month, snow has fallen on Las Vegas already — though not with the totals seen Sunday night. And multiple snow days in February are not common. Since 1939, February has seen more than three snowfall days only twice — the last time in 1949.
The latest that snow ever fell in Las Vegas in a winter was March 3, 1976, Outler said.
Sunday’s snowfall was produced by a large cold air mass that has gripped Western states in the past few weeks. Seattle has been getting hit with snow repeatedly this month and Lake Tahoe is within striking distance of record snowfall totals.
Snow has even managed to hit parts of Hawaii unaccustomed to seeing it. The Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area got a rare snowfall on Maui — believed to be the first snow in about a century, according to the Maui News. The peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa — both over 13,000 feet — get snow regularly.