Does Las Vegas Have Tornadoes?


The United States gets a total of over 1,200 tornadoes every year. If it’s your first time visiting Las Vegas Nevada, you may be concerned about potential natural disasters in the area. So, does Las Vegas have tornadoes?

Las Vegas has had tornadoes in the past, but they are extremely rare. The last tornado to touch down in Las Vegas was in 2014. Tornadoes are more common in other parts of Nevada, which averages 2 tornadoes a year as a state.

While Las Vegas doesn’t get many tornadoes, the city is subjected to other natural disasters like dust storms, droughts, flash floods, and earthquakes. In this article, I’ll cover the basics of each and let you know if they should be a concern while in Las Vegas.

Also See: What does Las Vegas mean?

Tornado in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Can Las Vegas get Tornadoes?

Although Las Vegas is not located in Tornado Ally, it still sees tornadoes from time to time. Fortunately, these tornadoes are rare, with the last one touching down nearly 10 years ago.

Las Vegas can occasionally experience high-speed winds during monsoon season. There are even tornado warnings from time to time, but this hardly ever amounts to a full-blown twister.

It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll see a tornado while visiting Vegas. Residents of the city can go a lifetime without ever laying eyes on one of these storms.

Why doesn’t Las Vegas have tornadoes more often?

Tornados are caused when thunderstorms of warm, moist air mixes with cooler air. When the air mixes, it causes spinning currents inside the clouds. These currents start off horizontal, but sometimes they flip vertically and touch down to the ground.

Las Vegas Valley is located in the Mojave Desert, so the air is generally very dry. Without humidity, it’s difficult for a tornado to form. So, Las Vegas doesn’t see many of them.

The city is also surrounded by mountains on all sides, which provides a barrier that reduces the strength of weather systems before they enter the city. There are typically more storms in the northern part of Nevada since they don’t have that natural barrier.

When was the Last Tornado in Las Vegas?

The last recent Las Vegas tornado was in 2014. It was a weak storm that didn’t cause much damage. Before that, the last tornado touched down in the early 2000s. There were also a couple of significant storms in the 1990s.

Every year there the city sees some inclement weather with high winds. These storms may cause small amounts of property damage, but tornadoes are seldom formed.

Other Natural Disasters that Occur in Las Vegas, Nevada

Aside from tornadoes, other natural disasters are more common in Nevada. None of them pose a significant risk to your safety, but they are something that you should be aware of. A few of them include dust storms, flash floods, earthquakes, and droughts.

Dust Devils

Dust storms, or dust devils as they’re known, are like mini-tornadoes. According to the National Weather Service, these weather phenomena are typically much smaller and much less powerful than traditional twisters.

Dust devils may look intimidating, but they are generally harmless. They can be formed under clear skies when the air near the ground is warmed above the normal air temperature. As the warmer air rises, it can cause a vortex.

Common Birds in Las Vegas
Common Birds in Las Vegas

As the vortex moves, it picks up dust, making it visible to the naked eye. It has a very similar appearance to a tornado.

Flash Floods

Flash floods are probably the most dangerous natural disaster in the Las Vegas area. It doesn’t rain often, but when it rains, it pours. The city can get up to an inch of rain within a couple of minutes, which quickly causes severe flooding on major roads.

Floods are common during the monsoon season (July through September). The storms are usually over in a matter of minutes, but they can cause serious damage. The city has built a robust drainage system to mitigate the effects of flooding.

Major floods happen every couple of years, but they typically aren’t deadly. Occasionally people are injured by attempting to drive through flooded streets.

Earthquakes

Nevada is the state with the third most earthquakes, behind only California and Alaska. The entire state of Nevada gets thousands of microquakes every year, but very few major earthquakes.

During my time living in Las Vegas, I have only experienced one earthquake. It happened in July of 2019 when a 7.1 magnitude quake shook California. The tremors were felt in Las Vegas a hundred miles away. There was no significant damage reported, but you could definitely feel the ground shake.

While Nevada is located near major fault lines, the likelihood of a major earthquake is low. Scientists say there will probably be one within the next 10,000 years, but it’s difficult to estimate.

Droughts

Since Nevada is located in the Mojave Desert, there isn’t much water nearby. Las Vegas gets 90% of its water from Lake Mead (which is sourced from the Colorado River), but the water levels drop every year.

There used to be a natural spring under the city, but it has been nearly pumped dry. The city has been looking into water conservation solutions for a long time. Per capita, Las Vegas uses less water today than it ever has, but the population continues to grow.

Droughts are made worse in Las Vegas because both California and Arizona also source water from Lake Mead. The water is used for irrigating huge fields of crops in those states.

Although there isn’t much precipitation in the city, it does occasionally snow in Las Vegas.

Conclusion

The chances are low that you’ll encounter a natural disaster while in Las Vegas. Tornadoes and earthquakes are pretty rare, and flash floods only cause issues once every couple of years.

Droughts are an ongoing issue in the state of Nevada and they aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. However, the city isn’t going to completely run out of water overnight. You should feel very safe when visiting Vegas.

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