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More than 5K without power in Las Vegas Valley after storm

Updated August 13, 2018 - 2:55 am

NV Energy crews were working around the clock to restore service to several thousand homes Sunday after a severe overnight thunderstorm knocked out power to more than 60,000 customers in the Las Vegas Valley.

More than 5,200 customers were still without service Sunday evening in the wake of Saturday night’s storm.

“It may be our largest outage ever,” said Kevin Geraghty, NV Energy vice president of operations. “It was extremely widespread.”

On Sunday, NV Energy’s website said 5,232 customers in Clark County were without power as of 9:30 p.m. The most heavily affected area at that time was near downtown Las Vegas, where more than 2,100 people were without power.

Many of those customers were affected by a series of power lines that were apparently downed when a metal shed was blown into them. Crews worked through the heat Sunday afternoon to clean up the snapped poles and electrical wires entangled in chain-link fences near Bruce and Fremont streets.

The outage forced nearby businesses to close Sunday. Employees at a nearby 7-Eleven had to dump perishable food items from the store, including more than 200 pizzas, cashier Gilda Cook said. A sign made of cardboard and permanent marker alerted would-be customers to the store’s closure while employees helped haul bags of ruined food to the dumpsters.

“We lost power, customers, money,” manager Nicole Nicita said Sunday.

Jazzmen Hicks, whose apartment lost power about 11 p.m. Saturday night, searched for relief from the heat Sunday as she walked in front of the store.

“I couldn’t even think because that’s how hot it is,” she said.

Clark County opened four shelters — at Cambridge Recreation Center, Pearson Community Center, Walnut Community Center and Winchester Community Center — county spokesman Erik Pappa said.

Cambridge Recreation Center and Pearson Community Center will remain open overnight, while the other two shelters will close at 8 p.m. All four shelters will take pets in carriers, and Cambridge has a mobile pet shelter for those without carriers, Pappa said.

Any resident without power who needs transportation to a shelter can call Nevada 211 or NV Energy Customer Service, and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada will provide a ride.

Geraghty said most customers will have power back by Sunday night, although some may be without electricity for a day or two.

“It will certainly be small numbers,” he said. “We just apologize for any customer that’s without power.”

NV Energy crews from Reno and Carson City, along with three crews from Rocky Mountain Power, will begin work Monday morning to help restore power, he said. More than 20 crews, with five to six people per crew, are working around the clock to repair downed lines and poles.

“You never have enough people to deal with a storm of this magnitude,” he said.

Geraghty said the outages also affected parts of Laughlin and Jean.

A July 9 storm knocked out power for more than 40,000 NV Energy customers, and a July 19 storm cut off power to 24,000 customers. The majority of outages in both were repaired within 24 hours.

“I’ve worked with people who’ve been here 30 years, and no one’s experienced these kinds of storms,” Geraghty said about this year’s active monsoon season.

During the storm

The Federal Aviation Administration radar used by the National Weather Service measured wind gusts over 70 mph before it was knocked out, weather service meteorologist John Adair said.

“Typically these thunderstorms that blow down from the northeast, basically between Mesquite and Las Vegas, produce some of the strongest winds we see from thunderstorms,” he said.

Before the arrival of wind, rain and hail, a dust storm hit the valley. Damage to roofs and trees was reported, but there were few instances of flooding, Adair said. About 0.09 inches of rain fell Saturday night, and about 230 lightning strikes occurred near Las Vegas.

The weather service said the storm cleared some haze affecting the valley from California and Arizona wildfires, but a Clark County Department of Air Quality advisory remains in effect through Monday.

Assessing the damage

Las Vegas Fire Department officials suspect a lightning strike caused one central valley business to catch fire. No one was injured or displaced by fire during the storm, spokesman Tim Szymanski said.

Some Las Vegans emerged from their homes Sunday morning to find downed trees. One had fallen directly onto Jessica Murray’s new car in the southwest valley near Rainbow Boulevard and Warm Springs Road.

“We didn’t even hear it come down,” Murray said.

Murray, who lives with her sister, said the two noticed that the tree had fallen from their neighbor’s yard about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, she said. The Toyota Corolla did not even have a license plate yet, and the tree’s branches prevented Murray from seeing the extent of the damage.

“We’ve been lucky up until now,” she said. “After 20-some years it’s bound to happen eventually.”

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter. Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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