Las Vegas has long been associated with glitz, glamor, and incredible excess. But it’s not always fun and games in Sin City, especially when you take into consideration Las Vegas’s increasingly dry landscape and lots of wind–the perfect combo for a dust storm.
Dust storms occur regularly in Las Vegas. These dust storms, sometimes called haboobs, are low gusts of fine dust that can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the intensity of the wind and climate conditions.
If you’re planning to take a trip down to the Entertainment Capital of the World, you might want to prepare not only your evening tux and party getup, because you’ll never know when you’ll meet a dust storm.
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When Are Dust Storms Most Common in Las Vegas
Dust storms are the result of the outflow of winds from thunderstorms or naturally windy conditions combined with dust and sand on arid landscapes, such as those in Las Vegas. The city is also quite windy because of its location near the Spring Mountains.
Fortunately, dust storms that occur in Las Vegas rarely develop into massive haboobs or large walls of dust, sand, and wind that last for hours (which are more common in other desert areas). What Vegas usually experiences are clouds of dust that whip up suddenly and settle after a few minutes, although extended dust storms are possible.
These dust storms are most common from May to September and are aggravated by windy weather conditions either within the city or nearby.
What To Do When There’s a Dust Storm Warning in Vegas
Unfortunately, dust storms are rarely detected early because it’s hard to distinguish between land and gusts of dust from space where these types of warnings are usually identified. Dust storm warnings, therefore, are usually given out when there is already a dust storm present and advise residents to stay away from areas where these have been spotted.
High wind warnings in Las Vegas are usually a precursor to the arrival of a potential dust storm. If you receive notice of a high wind warning with the wind blowing at 30-50mph or more, you can be assured that there will be plenty of dust blowing as well.
If you can help it, it’s safest to stay away from locations where dust storms have been reported. Dust storms affect visibility, making driving dangerous. And the fine dust particles that linger in the air can easily be inhaled and cause respiratory issues.
However, if you absolutely have to pass through these areas or stay there, have a protective mask ready to put on and make sure that you are indoors as soon as possible. The usual medical face mask, however, doesn’t cut it as protection from hazardous gases and dust.
For this, it’s best to purchase respirator masks, such as the N95 or the 3M 8511 mask. In an emergency where you don’t have access to a respirator mask, you can wet a handkerchief or any piece of cloth and put it over your nose and mouth.
When you receive a dust storm warning in Las Vegas, it’s probably best to put off that party with friends until it’s safe to be out and about. Driving during this time will not only be difficult but very dangerous, as motorists and other drivers will have a hard time seeing the road and other vehicles in front of them.
Vehicular accidents are quite common during dust storms, especially on the desert highways just outside of Las Vegas, with some motorists even colliding with vehicles parked by the road. But don’t think that you’re exempted when you’re not driving. Poor visibility can make public places in Las Vegas dangerous, even for pedestrians.
Close All Windows and Doors
Staying indoors is your safest bet during an occasional Las Vegas dust storm. But don’t forget to close all windows and doors and stop any gaps through which the dusty air can get through. Sand and dust particles can travel up to thousands of kilometers away, especially when the dust is carried off by a strong storm or exceptionally heavy winds.
Also, make sure that you are wearing a protective mask even when you are indoors. If you have an air-conditioned space, it’s best to spend your time there until visibility outside has improved or the dust storm warning has been lifted.
However, refrain from opening doors and windows as soon as the warning is lifted, as remaining dust particles may linger in the air for quite some time.
What To Do When You’re on The Road in a Vegas Dust Storm
Because these dust storms tend to appear suddenly, it can be hard to avoid them. If you’re caught in a dust storm while on the road, don’t despair. Here are things you can do to keep yourself safe.
Do Not Drive Through a Dust Storm
A dust storm is pretty obvious on the ground. The sky will appear dark (resembling an area with air pollution or smog), and you won’t be able to see far up ahead. In heavy dust storms, you may even see walls of dust in the air.
If you notice any of these signs up ahead, put your respirator mask on, and go the other way. If you can help it, do not drive through a dust storm and choose a different destination instead. You would not want to risk getting in a traffic accident due to poor visibility.
Also, the chances of traffic becoming congested during a dust storm are quite high. It will not only be risky for your health but a huge inconvenience.
Park Your Car in a Safe Spot
When in the middle of a dust storm, you can choose a safe spot and park there. Remember to close all the windows of your car and turn the engine off. Do not turn off your engine or stop in the middle of the road or in an area where vehicles pass by. If you are on a highway, exit it as quickly as possible.
Sound your horn a few times to alert nearby motorists or pedestrians and choose a location with better visibility, if possible, that’s not as likely to be frequented by motorists.
Turn Off Your Lights
Once you are safely parked, make sure that all your car’s lights are turned off. Lights can be used by other motorists as a guide, mistaking the distance due to poor visibility and causing a collision.
If you suffer from asthma and are traveling to Vegas, you have to be more careful about dust and wind storms. I’ve listed a few tips and recommended asthma-friendly places in Vegas in my other guide. [Is Las Vegas a Good Place for Someone With Asthma?]
How Often Does Las Vegas Get Dust Storms- Conclusion
Long-lasting and intense dust storms are fairly rare in Las Vegas, but short-lived dust storms can happen in Vegas pretty regularly, especially between June and September. So if you’re planning to come to Sin City, keep these reminders in mind and make sure that you have a respirator mask ready.