Las Vegas is located in one of the driest deserts in the world. While it may not rain a lot, it does actually rain in Las Vegas from time to time. So, just how often does it rain in Las Vegas?
Las Vegas sees an average rainfall of 4.2 inches a year and has, on average, 26 rainy days annually. Most of the rainy days are just light rain, but during the summer monsoon season, rain can become extremely heavy for short periods of time, causing dangerous flooding in some parts of the city.
Read on to find out what months in Las Vegas typically have the most/least rainfall and exactly what and when is monsoon season.
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How Many Days a Year Does it Rain in Las Vegas?
The city of Las Vegas, Nevada, is surrounded by the Mojave Desert, which is North America’s driest desert. Rainfall totals here are low, and I mean really low. The average rainfall amounts in Vegas are just 4.2 inches (106.7mm) a year!
It only rains, on average, about 26 days a year in Las Vegas. Officially, rainy days are counted as days that have a measurable amount of precipitation (above 0.1″), meaning that many of these 26 days of rainfall might only have a sprinkle or two.
Average Rainy Days in Las Vegas by Month
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I know whenever I go on vacation somewhere, it always seems to rain at some point during the trip. If you’re planning on visiting Las Vegas and you’re worried about your trip being ruined because of rain, the odds are greatly in your favor that it will not be an issue.
The likelihood that you will even see so much as a single drop of rain during your stay in Vegas is slim to none most months of the year.
You can see from the table that the months with the rainiest days on average are January, February, and December.
Average Rainfall in Las Vegas by Month
Generally, the months with the highest amount of rainy days correlate pretty well with the months with the most total rainfall. Makes sense, right?
So what months in Las Vegas have the highest amount of total rainfall?
This table shows total rainfall in inches on a month-by-month basis:
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So again, the months of January, February, and December have the highest rainfall totals, while the months of April, May, and June see the least amount of rain each year.
What Month Does it Rain the Most in Las Vegas?
The table above shows us that February is overall the wettest month of the year in Las Vegas. With an average of 4 rainy days and up to 0.8″ in total accumulated rainfall.
Having said that, we’re still not talking about much in the way of rain, which makes one wonder just how long Las Vegas can go between rainy days.
How Many Days Can Las Vegas Go Without Rain?
As a Las Vegas resident, I can tell you that we can go for days, weeks, and months without it raining in the Vegas valley. The longest recorded period without rain in Las Vegas is 240 days.
Rain did not fall in Las Vegas between April 20, 2020, and December 17, 2020 (source). The dry streak ended with a reported rainfall total of .03 inches. That’s a long time without any rain!
The previous record for days without rain in Las Vegas was 150 days, set in 1959, and the Las Vegas Valley has come close to beating that record several times throughout the years.
So it’s not uncommon to go several months without any rain at all in Las Vegas. This is due to the fact that Las Vegas is in what is known as a rain-shadow desert.
What is a Rain Shadow Desert?
I’ve referred to the Las Vegas Valley several times so far, and this is because Las Vegas is located in a valley surrounded on all sides by mountains. These surrounding mountains cause Vegas to be in what’s called a “rain shadow area”.
In a nutshell, here’s what this diagram above shows. As clouds filled with moisture hit the mountains on their way to Las Vegas, they are forced to rise in elevation. As clouds increase in elevation, they tend to cool and expand, reducing their ability to hold moisture.
So the clouds release their moisture in the form of rain while they are moving up the Windward side of the mountain. By the time they make it over the mountain, the clouds don’t usually contain enough leftover moisture to rain on the Leeward side of the mountain.
Las Vegas is on the Leeward (east) side of the mountain range between it and the Pacific Ocean, and as such, most of the rain headed to Las Vegas is blocked by the mountains.
Monsoon Season Las Vegas
Obviously, even though Las Vegas is in a rain shadow, we do still see some rain. While this is true throughout the year, there is a time each year when Las Vegas enters what is known as “monsoon season.”
What is Monsoon Season in Las Vegas?
Monsoon season is a period of time that can be subject to extremely heavy rain along with thunder and lightning. In Las Vegas, monsoon conditions are caused when high-level clouds full of moisture make it over the mountains into the valley, where they collide with the very dry desert air over the city.
A lot of rain falls in a short period of time. Imagine taking a sponge full of water and squeezing it.
The resulting heavy rains can cause major flooding because the extreme amount of rainfall in such a short period has nowhere to go. The ground is very dry and cannot easily absorb water.
When is Monsoon Season in Las Vegas?
Monsoon season in Las Vegas falls between mid-June and September. While most summer days are hot, sunny, and dry, this period of time can be punctuated with thunder, lightning, and heavy rains that typically happen in the afternoons.
Most monsoon days in Vegas amount to just some thunderhead clouds, a bit of lightning/thunder, and maybe a sprinkle or two. The rain shadow comes into play here as well, and the mountains keep most of the rain at bay.
But when the full effect of a monsoon storm hits, Las Vegas can get .5″ of rain or much more in just a matter of minutes. Being a city in the desert that doesn’t see much rain means that Las Vegas doesn’t have the drainage systems of other wetter cities.
The rain, with limited places to go, can back up and flood the streets in just a matter of minutes.
How to Stay Safe in a Monsoon
There are two areas of concern during a monsoon event. Hiking in the desert and driving.
It’s best to avoid hiking in the desert when you know there’s a chance of a monsoon. You’ll know this by either checking the weather or seeing dark afternoon thunderclouds heading your way.
If you see rain conditions forming, it’s time to leave. If you get caught in a monsoon rainstorm while out hiking, get to higher ground to avoid any flash flooding that can happen in low-lying areas.
The bigger concern in the city of Las Vegas is in regard to driving. If you’re out driving during a monsoon event, pull over in a safe area and wait it out.
Above all else, never try to drive through a flooded intersection. It might not look like much of a problem, but most monsoon injuries and deaths occur because people try to drive through flooded streets, and they get quickly overcome by the rapidly rising water.
In the case of flooding, it tends to clear up almost as quickly as it came. Be a bit patient, and the flooding will subside.
Wendy and I are usually in the pool in the afternoons during monsoon season, and if we have some dark clouds and a little thunder, we usually ignore it, but if we start seeing lighting, it’s time to get out of the pool. Just use your head. Monsoon safety is mostly a matter of common sense.
RELATED: Find out more about the monsoon season in Las Vegas in our article here.
What to Do When it Rains in Las Vegas
If you’re coming to Las Vegas for vacation, there is very little chance that your trip will be negatively impacted by rain, but we do have an occasional rainy day.
So what are some things to do in Vegas when it’s raining?
- Visit a new casino
- See a movie (See our post: Best Movie Theaters in Las Vegas)
- Catch a show
- Outlet Shopping (See our post: Best Outlet Malls in Las Vegas)
- Check out Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay
- Try indoor skydiving (See our post: Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving)
- Museums (Mob Museum, Haunted Museum, Natural History)
- Eat somewhere interesting (Heart Attack Grill, Dining in the Dark, Top of the World)
Honestly, this list just barely scratches the surface. There is so much to do in Las Vegas that’s inside, it doesn’t really even matter if it’s raining. Just leave the outdoor activities until the next day or maybe even just give it a few hours to clear up.
How Often it Rains in Las Vegas – Final Thoughts
The bottom line is that it just doesn’t rain a lot in Las Vegas. With approximately 300 days of sunshine a year and plenty of fun activities to do inside or out, an unlikely day of rain isn’t going to ruin your trip.
Besides, with only 26 days of rain a year, what are the odds that it will rain while you’re visiting? After all, Vegas is all about the odds, right? 🙂