Geographically speaking, Las Vegas sits squarely in the Mojave Desert; in fact, it is the largest city in the Mojave with almost two million residents. So, how do you raise an active family, have an active lifestyle or simply play outside in the desert’s scorching summer heat?
While you might think that an average Las Vegas Valley resident’s first priority is to have fun, personal safety is the most important concern. Living in the desert heat, which can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest days of the summer, can get dangerous quickly if you are not aware of how the desert climate can impact you and your loved ones.
Beware of flash floods.
Did you know that flash floods are one of the most dangerous parts of living in the desert? With an average of less than 10 inches of rainfall every year, when rain finally does come to the desert, it makes for a very dangerous situation. As the rain falls on the desert, the dry, sunbaked soil does not soak up the sudden moisture; instead, it sends the water speeding through washes and ravines, creating flash floods.
Between the months of July and September, moist air comes in from the Gulf of Mexico, mixes with the desert heat and creates the North American monsoon. So the first part of staying safe while playing outside in Las Vegas is to keep your eye on the forecast and stay out of low-lying areas during thunderstorms because flash floods can easily happen and are impossible to predict or avoid. A flash flood could easily cost the lives of you or your loved ones, so stay safe by going to higher ground during thunderstorms.
Since 1960, Las Vegas has recorded 33 directly flood-related deaths and 23 separate flash flood events. On average, one person every year drowns in the city’s drainage system. Even though you may think it is safe, resist the urge to enter drainage ditches or drive through flooded intersections. Odds are that the water is deeper than you think it is. Are you Flood Safe? Test your knowledge here.
Be aware of how the desert heat can affect you and your loved ones.
Upon first arrival to the arid climate of the Mojave, a person must adjust to the climate. During the summer, that means the heat. Residents often liken a desert summer, with its’ powerful wind and relentless heat, to standing in an unstoppable blast furnace, so it is important to take some simple steps to help yourself and those you love adjust to and survive the desert heat.
- Clothing – Make sure to wear light, breathable, light colored clothing. Light clothing helps pull heat away from the body, reducing the chances of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or deadly heat stroke.
- Hydration – When acclimatizing to or playing in the hot, arid environment, it is crucial to stay hydrated. Doubly so after a hard night of partying. Replace lost fluids as soon as you can with water or slightly diluted sports drinks to replenish lost electrolytes and carbohydrates. Regardless if it is a day outdoors rock climbing or a leisurely day out shopping and running errands, it is always a smart idea to always carry water or some type of replenishing fluids with you at all times. Dehydration is a serious illness you can avoid if you take the right precautions by staying well-hydrated.
- Sunscreen – As with any outdoor activity, protecting your skin is important. Using a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 will help shield you from ultraviolet rays and will help to avoid a painful sunburn. Also, try wearing a wide-brimmed, well-ventilated hat to shade your head, face and neck to protect you even further.
- Early Morning/Late Afternoons – One of the biggest parts of successfully beating the desert heat is to utilize the cool mornings and dwindling heat of the late afternoons to your advantage. If you are walking your dog, for your safety and theirs, it is best to use those times of day for exercise as the heat will be substantially less, reducing you and your pet’s chances of overheating.
- Don’t leave items in your vehicle – In the desert heat, the interior of your car can reach a searing 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Many residents can share stories of melted smartphones, warped CD’s and DVD’s along with exploded aerosol cans that they left in their cars, only to come back to find them destroyed.
Don’t drink and drive.
You are in Vegas. Yes, you can get a steak and a beer 24/7, but that’s no reason to be irresponsible. There are safe ride services, that although they may cost you a bit of money, no price tag can be put on your life. You are priceless, so treat yourself that way. Services like http://www.bemydd.com, http://www.stearclear.com or http://designateddriversinc.com charge between $35 and $60 to get you and your car home safe. If the price tag seems a bit much, consider the drink prices at the latest, trendiest clubs on the strip, OR the fact that a DUI in Clark County will run you between $400 to $1000. You’ll be getting off much less expensively by just calling for a ride instead of putting yourself and other drivers on the road at risk. Better yet, think of it this way, you won’t have to wonder how you got home and you’ll wake up in your own bed instead of a jail cell. Don’t drink and drive. Call a ride or take a taxicab home, it’s the safest (and cheapest) way to go.
Never leave children or pets in a parked car.
From the City of Las Vegas Website: The temperature in a vehicle can rise to 135 degrees in less than 10 minutes, which can cause death to children or pets. If you see a child or pet unattended in a parked car, you should call 9-1-1 and alert authorities.
Be aware that the desert does contain venomous animals.
This is the desert and just like any other natural landscape, creepy crawlies abound. Just because you cannot see them does not mean they are not there. As the Las Vegas Valley grows, it encroaches on the natural desert habitat that contains an abundance of living creatures, from Burrowing Owls and Road Runners to Desert Tortoises and Fringe-Toed Lizards. While those inhabitants are sweet to think of, there are also other desert natives that aren’t so sweet. Venomous creatures such as Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, spiders like the Black Widow and Brown Recluse, Scorpions and Centipedes all make their homes in the masonry and shrubs in Valley homes. Like it or not, your odds of running into them are pretty good. Las Vegas also plays home to ants, mice and Africanized Honeybees as well. To avoid being invaded by these creepy crawlies, make sure to keep your storage spaces clean and swept of any webs and your food preparation areas well-sanitized and free of any food debris that can attract them. Keep pet food containers clean and sealed tightly. You can also call out an exterminator service on a monthly basis to keep pests at bay. Most of all, take time to learn the size and distinctive markings on these animals to make sure you and your family are safe.
Even though you may be a local now, common sense rules still apply.
Like any large city, Las Vegas has its’ share of criminals too. Be smart when you are out. Travel in groups while on the strip where tourists fall prey to aggressive criminals such as pick pockets and hustlers. If you feel unsafe while in the resort corridor, if possible, enter the nearest safe venue such as a large casino or resort and contact their security staff. The resorts that have made Las Vegas famous have security staff for a reason, to keep our city’s guests safe while on their property.
The Las Vegas Valley, from Mount Charleston all the way to Lake Mead, is filled with fun things to do in the summer sun. While the desert does have its dangers, you can still have fun and be safe at the same time.