Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Las Vegas Flash Floods

People are shocked to find out that it floods when it rains in Vegas. 

This weekend I was on my way home from the store when I saw a bunch of people looking at the rising water in this flood channel. 

One minute later (literally--I checked the time stamp on the pictures), it looked like this.

Before the flood control channels and retention basins were built, this is what Las Vegas streets looked like whenever it rained. (And despite all that flood control, the streets still wind up looking like this sometimes--or worse.) People think I'm exaggerating when I tell them that for years, people just didn't go out when it rained. I'm not. 

Today, not a bit of yesterday's flash flood river remains.

I called this area Olive Tree Rapids.

Today, it looked like this:

Did you see any flash flooding this weekend?

Update, 08-31-13: During August, Las Vegas had a series of Monsoon-related flash floods. Last week, the Northwest/Centennial Hills area was hit especially hard (see this TWC post for pictures). Even as I update this post, another storm is moving in. 
All pictures by Terrisa Meeks

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Storm Season in Las Vegas

On Friday, the 2013 Monsoon Season announced its arrival in Las Vegas with a spectacular lightning show.

The view from my backyard was dynamite.

Did you have much rain, wind, or lightning this weekend?
Pictures by Terrisa Meeks

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is Gramercy a Sign of Changing Times in Vegas?

Is the Ghostification of Las Vegas Over?

First, we had the Manhattanization of Las Vegas, when hi-rises sprouted all along the Strip.

Then the Great Recession hit, and the building boom halted, leaving the shells of unfinished buildings all over the Las Vegas valley. Add in thousands of vacant homes, and you have the ghostification of Las Vegas.

But could we be moving on to a new (unnamed but hopefully better) era?

Manhattan West, abandoned in mid-construction in 2008, is now slated to be Gramercy, with construction scheduled to start in fall. It’s one of a few projects, like the Shoppes at Summerlin and the Echelon (now Resorts World Las Vegas) that are getting new hopes as the economy tries to gain traction.

What’s next, SoHo-ization? That’s my vote.

What do you think Vegas' next era will be? 

Update, March 17, 2014:
Construction has finally resumed on this project & the plans for it look pretty ambitious:


Picture by Terrisa Meeks

Monday, July 15, 2013

Las Vegas Techie Problems: We’d Like Two Fry’s, Please

The lone Fry’s in town is a techie Mecca, and nearly as hard to get to as the actual Holy City.

If you are a techie (or live or work with one), you know that the only acceptable big electronics store in Las Vegas is Fry’s.

You might know that while a second Fry’s is allegedly in the works for a vacant space in Boca Park (the old Great Indoors space), there’s been no sign of an imminent opening at the proposed new store.

This means that when my 15-year-old Techie needs something, we have to drive across town. And because it takes a long time (“long time” being more than 10 minutes) to get there, we have to go on the weekend.

A trek to Fry’s from my house requires checking the gas tank and planning for lunch. For me, just being showered and presentable on the weekend is a major achievement.

Last weekend, my Fry’s adventure started out like it always does, with me finding out that I still don’t know the best way to exit the 215 to get to the store. I only had to make one U-turn, though, which is pretty good.

On previous expeditions, I’ve almost been in Henderson before realizing the store was several miles in back of me. It’s completely unclear which exit to take. I’m just trying a different exit each time we go to see which one lands me closest to the store. Eventually, I’ll figure it out.

At least I now no longer miss the fly-over turn from Las Vegas Boulevard into the store’s parking lot when I’m driving in from south of the store (where I usually wind up after one of my usual detours). The first time I was presented with a freeway on-ramp style fly-over rising from the middle of the street, I thought, “No way, there can’t be a fly-over exit into a shopping center,” but I was wrong. 

Once you get into Fry’s, it’s easy to forget about the long drive and convoluted entrance. They employ friendly, knowledge people who can answer my kid’s most arcane questions.

There is one thing I like about Fry’s current location: the i burgers restaurant in Town Square. (Like I said, you have to plan for lunch.)

12/6/13: The Las Vegas RJ says that the Boca Park Fry's is still a year away:

Are you a Fry’s fan?

Photos by Terrisa Meeks

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Elvis Lives!

In Downtown Las Vegas, Elvis not only lives, he's apparently been cloned several times.

I went Downtown on Saturday to meet up with other bloggers and take pictures of interesting things. For a target-rich environment of "interesting things," it's hard to beat Fremont Street

(Incidentally, what's up with all the Vegas Newbies who call the Strip "Downtown"? I work with some people from Back East who keep saying they're going Downtown when they're headed to Mandalay Bay, and that's just wrong.)

I remember when you could drive on Fremont Street. But then, I also remember the real Elvis.

Looking for something cheap and entertaining to do in Vegas? Go Downtown and just walk around. If you don't find that entertaining, I don't know what to tell you.

*For long-time Vegas locals, "Back East" refers to any state east of Colorado.

Have you been Downtown lately?
Picture by Terrisa Meeks. See more of my Downtown Vegas pics on flickr.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Is There a Forest at Mt. Charleston?

Since the fire broke out at Mt. Charleston, I've had three people ask me, "What's burning? Is there a forest up there?" 

It's shocking to watch the smoke pouring into the sky as the Carpenter Fire continues to burn at Mt. Charleston.

For those who don't know, there is indeed a forest at Mt. Charleston, and it includes large stands of Bristlecone Pines (which can live to be thousands of years old and are considered to be the oldest living single organisms), along with a variety of other trees and plants (and animals, including a herd of elk.)

It's sobering to contemplate what damage the fire has done, but I am thankful we've not lost any lives. Other communities in the Southwest have not been so lucky this year. 

Mt. Charleston is part of the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest and is in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. It encompasses the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area, including the Mount Charleston Peak (11,908 feet).
I took these photos of the smoke filling the northwestern part of the valley while I was out for a walk this evening. On the 4th of July, we could see the fire's flames from our front yard. Some people I know in the northwest part of town told me it rained ash at their house this weekend. 

Have you ever witnessed a forest fire?

Friday, July 05, 2013

About That Time I Left My Dad on a Lava Field

Let me be clear: I did not leave my Dad on an active lava flow. Just close to one.

Summer makes me think of family vacations, and thinking of family vacations inevitably reminds me of my family vacation to Hawaii.

It’s been several years now since our trip to The Big Island. On the afternoon this picture was taken, we were spending a pleasant afternoon at the Botanical Gardens. That’s Aunt Betty on the left, my hubby David on the right, and Uncle Walter in the background. My mom-in-law, Bonnie, is standing behind David. My Dad’s not in this picture because he elected to stay at the hotel that day.

David and I envisioned a family trip involving far less group activity, but that was not what our traveling companions had in mind. Not long after our plane landed in Kona, we accepted that we’d been drafted as the official tour guides, which made sense since we’d been there twice before. We joked that we could call ourselves “David and Terrisa-aa’s Tours.”

David’s family was thrilled to be in Hawaii and wanted to see as much of the island as possible, but my dad was there mostly to see the Camp Tarawa Monument and the volcano. All other sight-seeing he barely tolerated. Several times he opted out altogether.
Dad had trained at Camp Tarawa before participating in the Occupation of Japan after World War II. Camp Tarawa was also where the Iwo Jima forces trained. I imagine it was a sobering moment for Dad to see the monument, although he never said so.

What he did say, however, stayed the same no matter where we went: “Didn’t look like this 50 years ago.” That was Dad’s only observation. About everything.

Dad had serious health conditions, like heart disease and emphysema. He was missing his right leg below the knee. Dad could walk with his prosthetic leg, but he couldn’t walk very far, so we took a wheelchair with us in the minivan when he did go on outings with us.

And it was in that wheelchair that I left him on the lava field, in an area that looked very much like this.

You had to hike to the red hot lava, which is to say that people in wheelchairs (like Dad) were perfectly safe from the active lava… although I must say that I didn’t notice any other one-legged men parked in wheelchairs in Volcanoes National Park.

The park ranger who later stopped to ask Dad about who had left him there probably didn’t run into that too often, either.

That section of the park was peppered with signs warning people about the hazards of the volcano’s fumes, which were noted as particularly dangerous for heart patients. I rolled Dad past several of those signs. It was just the two of us on that lonely, lava-surrounded road after the rest of the group had gone on without us. The lava wasn't far away.

The “vog” (a combination of volcanic emissions and fog) got denser. I asked Dad if he wanted to turn around.

“I’ll let you know when to stop,” Dad said. 

In the distance, you could see steam rising in massive clouds from lava pouring into the ocean. When a breeze blew a big whiff of sulfur toward us, Dad said, “That’s good.”

Dad put the brakes on his wheelchair, crossed his legs, then pulled out his pack of Camels and lit up a smoke before he said, “I’ll be fine right here.” 
To our right, a trail led to where the lava flowed into the ocean. Ahead of us, out of sight somewhere over the hardened lava that had closed the road some time ago, the rest of our group was watching fresh lava ooze out of the ground.

Then Dad said, “Go ahead. I’ll be fine right here.”

I briefly pondered whether or not this was a good idea. I hesitated to leave him there. But lava was not far away, and when was I going to get the chance to see lava again?  

So I left him on the road in the middle of the lava field.

(I must say it sounds really awful written out like that.)

I hurried to the lava, which was gurgling out of the earth and pooling around the edges of the viewing area. I quickly snapped pictures before saying to David, “We really should get back to Dad.” We told the rest of the group we’d meet them back at the minivan, and then we took off at a jog.

As we got closer, we saw a park ranger’s truck pulling away from Dad. A female ranger smiled and waved at us.

I knew instinctively that the lady ranger had not been just chit-chatting with Dad. She’d thought that we’d left him there, which technically we did… just not permanently.  

“That very nice ranger asked me all about who I was with, and where you were,” Dad told us. There was no telling what he’d told her. This was the same man who had been telling people all week that a shark bit off his leg.

“She asked me all kinds of questions,” he continued. She had even given him a bottle of water. At that time, there had been a couple of high-profile cases about disabled senior citizens being abandoned in public places, which I’m sure my news junkie dad knew.

He looked positively gleeful.

What are some of your family vacation memories? 

Family photos and close-up of lava by Terrisa Meeks.
Picture of lava on the road by Steve Cadman
Picture of lava flowing into the ocean by Scott Carpenter