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World & Nation

Strongest winds in five years lash Las Vegas, toppling trucks and wrecking a casino sign

High winds damaged a sign for the Main Street Station casino, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Las Vegas
High winds damaged a sign for the Main Street Station casino in Las Vegas.
(John Locher / AP)

Strong winds continued to buffet the Las Vegas Valley on Friday, a day after gusts wreaked havoc by delaying flights, toppling four large trucks, uprooting trees and destroying at least one casino marquee.

Alex Boothe, intern meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said powerful winds in the spring aren’t unusual, but Thursday’s wind speeds were the highest the region had experienced since 2012.

“It was higher than we’re used to,” Boothe said. “It’s been a little while.”

The winds were strong enough to force the National Weather Service to issue a dust warning and a wind wind warning. Boothe said that occurs when visibility is a quarter of a mile or less and winds are sustained at 40 mph or gusts top 58 mph for at least an hour. The last dust warning issued here was in September.

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Boothe said peak winds hit 84 mph at Desert Inn Road and Highway 215 near Summerlin, a community about 20 minutes west of the Strip. Video posted on social media by travelers near Red Rock Canyon showed cars pulling over as visibility deteriorated.

Four trucks were blown over on roads during the peak winds, causing delays on Interstate 15, where lanes were closed around St. Rose Parkway exit near M Resort Spa Casino for about three hours before reopening Thursday evening.

The winds mangled the Main Street Station casino sign, leaving it tilting to one side and sustaining some missing pieces.

Workers clear debris
Workers clear debris from a tree that fell during a severe wind storm in Las Vegas.
(John Locher / AP)

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Crews on Friday had laid the sign flat and roped off the area, according to Boyd Gaming spokesman David Strow.

“It is beyond repair,” he said. “That sign will be gone.”

He said it had been there since the 1980s, and the casino would be looking into designing and replacing it. Several other signs were damaged around the Strip as well, including the marquee at a large souvenir shop.

Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino took on some damage near its food court when a gust knocked down an 8-by-10-foot construction wall — forcing it to close off a small gambling area for about three hours.

MGM Resorts International spokeswoman Yvette Monet said the construction area was part of the Monte Carlo’s $450-million upgrade, including the launch of Park MGM hotel scheduled for late next year.

Monet said one person sustained a minor injury from the wall’s collapse and was treated on site.

The winds also forced some attractions on the Strip to close, including all of the rides atop the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino. Elevator rides up to the 1,149-foot observation deck remained open, however.

At McCarran International Airport, where peak winds reached 60 mph, 18 flights were diverted Thursday and other flights were delayed. By Friday afternoon, the delays were less than 15 minutes.

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Around the Las Vegas Valley, some streets were blocked by fallen trees; Clark County officials said they responded to about 60 calls. Local television news reports showed one tree had fallen onto a home, collapsing part of its roof. Video on social media showed trampolines, barbecues and patio furniture being blown across streets and yards.

NV Energy reported Friday it was still attempting to restore power to customers after about 50,000 were left in the dark because of wind damage.

Unlike Phoenix, where dust storms approach like dirt tsunamis and blanket the area, Las Vegas is more insulated because it’s surrounded by mountains, Boothe said. Severe dust storms — called haboobs — are more likely to occur in Phoenix because it has fewer barriers to stop the wind from picking up dirt and blowing it through the air.

Boothe said that by Saturday, the winds in Las Vegas should be “breezy.”

david.montero@latimes.com

Twitter: @davemontero

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