Las Vegas betting on chance of New Year's Eve snow

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

LAS VEGAS (AP) — If Sin City's sports books took bets on the weather, snow in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve would normally have terrible odds.

It might pay out this year, though, if the white flurries start falling on the Strip's desert-dwelling casinos as expected Wednesday night.

Those huddled in New York City to watch the ball drop could expect a mostly sunny Wednesday with a low of 27 degrees by evening. No chance of snow.

But forecasts in Las Vegas pinned the area's chances on New Year's Eve snow at 70 percent, along with a 32-degree low.

Even with that level of confidence, snowball fights on the Strip are far from a sure bet.

Moisture, snow's key ingredient, remained elusive in predictions as of late Monday.

"Whether or not we get any snow, it's still going to be very cold for New Year's," said Chris Stachelski, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Las Vegas.

So cold that meteorologists warned tourists — much like a parent might — to "bring layers and dress warmly" and wear shoes with some good traction, not typical for revelers looking to stay fashionable on the social holiday.

Some 340,000 people are expected to pack the Strip and Las Vegas' downtown Fremont area for festivities.

Organizers of the fireworks show shot from the rooftops of seven casino-resorts remained confident Monday that snow wouldn't damper the event. Michael Mack with Las Vegas Events said only wind could shut it down, and in the 14 years the company has been producing the show, it hadn't.

If it does snow, airlines will need to bring their de-icing equipment for planes landing or taking off from Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport. The airport doesn't have any snow removal gear on hand, and it isn't required to. The last time any notable amount stuck to the airport's runways was Dec. 17, 2008.

The unusual weather is part of a cold and "somewhat moist" storm moving south across California into the Mojave Desert and Las Vegas, bringing snow to parts of Northern Arizona and Utah, according to the weather service.

Meteorologists expect up to 2 inches in higher elevations and a light coating of half an inch to an inch, on the Strip, Stachelski said.

The main issue may be getting to or leaving Las Vegas. Snow is expected Tuesday evening through Wednesday in one of the main routes for Southern Californians — the Cajon Pass on Interstate 15. Travelers coming from Utah and Arizona should be fine until Wednesday night, Thursday and Friday when snow is expected on Interstate 40 through Flagstaff and U.S. Route 93 to Phoenix, Stachelski said.