One of the main reasons I put a current weather box at the top of this blog is that, since becoming New To Las Vegas this summer, I get asked all the time by friends, colleagues and relatives around the country how hot it is here at that particular moment. I suppose people living in Phoenix get the same queries. But hey, I’m not New To Phoenix, so I don’t get asked that.
From what I can tell, Las Vegas’ grip on the public imagination of the world is based on four things: (1) gambling, (2) entertainment, (3) history of the mob and (4) God-awful heat. Now, over the decades I’ve lived in some pretty toasty places: Cairo, Houston, Albuquerque and an inland valley in the Los Angeles area two mountain ranges from the cooling marine layer of the Pacific Ocean. I almost never was asked by far-away folks about the local temperature (although living in coolish Seattle, I fielded constant inquiries about rain).
Las Vegas is just one of those towns that people like to make fun of, so I suspect asking me about the heat is a gentle way of needling. But now I have a response. Nearby is a table showing the historic average monthly temps in Las Vegas. The high–the only data series that seems to draw any notice–is 100 or more during June, July and August. But only those months.
The mercury starts to fall noticeably around Labor Day–today–and by the middle of September the daily high is usually out of the 90s. Indeed, the predicted high for today is down to 93 degrees. We might have one or two more 100 degree days, but that should be it.
What will follow is upwards of eight months of generally terrific weather. No excessive heat, lots of sun, low humidity (often 1%), no ice or snow, and little precipitation of any kind.
Remember that, residents of snowy Boston in January, rainy Houston in November, frigid New York in February, and hurricane-threatened Florida any time in the fall. Many parts of the country are lucky to get four months a year of good weather.
That the weather takes a sharp turn for the better on Labor Day seems to be a profound article of faith among Las Vegans (honest, that’s what they call themselves, maybe because Vegasites sounds too much like Sodomites). In the past two weeks I’ve had any number of people I encountered reference Labor Day with the kind of reverence the rest of us reserve for special times like Thanksgiving and Super Bowl Sunday. At this time of the year it seems like everyone in Las Vegas is a meteorologist predicting the weather.
Now, all the jokes you hear ending in, “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat” do cause grimaces here. One hundred degrees-plus is oppressive whether or not you are well-hydrated and wearing a hat. The ground is even too hot for dogs to walk on by 11 am, although pet shops do sell dog boots. Thanks to the home A/C, in both July and August I paid more to the electric utility (owned, as it happens, by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway) than I did for an entire year in Seattle.
But time is clearly on my side. Keep watching my weather box.