I’ve been writing about the early and colder winter that has hit the Twin Cities, but let’s face it – below-zero temperatures and huge snowdrifts in Minnesota don’t exactly make headlines, even if the bitter cold is at least a month early.  For news like that to make an impact, record cold temperatures and heavy snowfall would have to hit someplace that least expects it and has no preparations to deal with it — and a place that everyone recognizes.

How about … Las Vegas?

A rare snowstorm blanketed the Las Vegas Valley on Wednesday, delaying flights, causing widespread fender-benders and canceling events. As much as 8 inches of snow fell in parts of the valley, forecasters said this morning.

The rarities continued Wednesday night with the Clark County School District’s announcement that students are getting a snow day today. It’s the first snow day for Clark County students since 1979, when a storm dropped 9.9 inches of snow in January that year.

With ice and snow on the roads, and district buses responsible for transporting more than 80,000 students, closing school was the prudent move, Superintendent Walt Rulffes said.

Bus drivers, teachers and other classroom employees will also have the day off. Administrators, 12-month employees and office staff are expected to be at work, since some students might show up at school and require adult assistance, Rulffes explained in an e-mail to staff. In a statement this morning, the school district said all school-based food service personnel, food service truck drivers and warehouse employees are not to report for work. However, all other food service personnel shall report for work or contact their supervisor.

Want to bet how many of the casinos closed?  I’d take the over/under at zero.

Eight inches of snow would qualify as a major snowstorm in Minnesota, where we have the infrastructure to deal with it.  It would greatly impede traffic, snow emergencies would get called in the metropolitan areas, and the roads would slow to a crawl, although schools wouldn’t close.  Four inches in Vegas proper — where they won’t have snowplows at the ready — is a disaster.  Ice makes it even worse, and indicates that the temperatures dropped dramatically as the precipitation fell.

How badly does this impact Vegas?  Snow has only fallen in December there on four occasions in the past 70 years, which means they have no infrastructure to handle it.  McCarran Airport, the main entry and exit point for the city’s vital tourist business, has no equipment to clear snow from the runways.  They’re having to improvise, and the delays are damaging the city’s business at a time when they can ill afford it.

Snow in the desert.  Record colds.  Vegas paralyzed by ice, snow, and resultant power outages.  That global warming sure looks interesting now.

Update: A Cox and Forkum classic, courtesy of Newton in the comments:

Tags: Minnesota