Fire and water in paradise
Mother Nature reminds us not to take for granted the beauty of our surroundings
Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
I had just loaded up the car to visit one of Southern Nevada’s favorite getaways — Mount Charleston — when I heard the radio announcement from the National Weather Service. Moments later, my cellphone came to life, too.
A flash flood warning was in effect for the area around Kyle Canyon Road, one of the two main highways leading up Mount Charleston.
I looked in the direction of the mountain and, sure enough, it looked like the clouds were unloading over the terrain.
Anyone who may have forgotten the fury of nature likely remembered during the Carpenter 1 fire, which last month burned 28,000 acres of the Spring Mountains. The fire was ignited by lightning and enveloped the valley in smoke for several days.
I was one of the lucky ones who was on vacation for the duration of the blaze, but I monitored accounts of the fire because I enjoy the mountains and wanted to know what was happening back home. Like everyone who has a connection to the area, I was curious about the damage and whether my favorite destinations were scarred.
Once I returned home, it seemed as if nature was telling me to stay away with the flash flood warning.
I have a healthy respect for the power of moving water when torrential rains turn dry washes into raging rivers.
On a trip from Reno a few years ago, my family and I spent the night in our car on U.S. 95, south of Beatty, when a flash flood closed the highway. We tried to take the highway through Pahrump to get home, but the same flooded wash also blocked Nevada Highway 160. The road behind us was littered with sand, rocks and boulders. We were trapped for the night.
Flash flooding could easily worsen trails and ecosystems damaged by Carpenter 1.
While some trails have been reopened, others remain closed under an order that, if violated, can result in a misdemeanor charge punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Luckily, the road leading to the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort is in good shape. The resort offers summertime chair lift rides and is a nice cool place to get away for an afternoon. The Mount Charleston Lodge also is open for business.
But the mountain as a whole sustained damage that will be felt for years. Heavy rain, flash floods and snow only will make things worse.
Our desert is a recreational paradise that offers regular lessons about how harsh the environment can be. The Carpenter 1 fire and this year’s flash flood season are our latest reminders.