Postcard from... Las Vegas


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There were a lot of excited people in Las Vegas yesterday morning, and not just because it was New Year’s Eve. Instead, tourists strolling along the Strip stopped, stood and stared at the sky as the desert city saw its first measurable December snowfall in six years (the 2008 sprinkling is pictured above).

Much of the Western US is in the midst of a cold snap, but Las Vegas is particularly unaccustomed to the chill. Visitors hoping for a warm night of partying would instead have had to buy hats and gloves in preparation for freezing temperatures on New Year’s Eve, when more than 300,000 people were expected to fill the streets for the city’s annual celebration.

By midday on Wednesday there were only scattered flurries of snow, none of which had settled, but officials were reportedly concerned that the wintry weather could snarl up transport – on one of the busiest nights of the year – in a city that is singularly unprepared for snow. When 4.4 inches (11cm) of snow settled on Vegas on New Year’s Day in 1974, it caused chaos. The most snow Vegas has ever seen was 12 inches, and that was in 1909 – understandably, the city has little in the way of snow-clearing equipment.

Meanwhile, there were concerns that the annual Las Vegas fireworks spectacular would have to be postponed until after midnight due to high winds. On the other hand, a light snowfall could be the perfect complement to the colourful festivities, which are launched simultaneously from the roofs of seven hotels.