My sister has lived in Las Vegas for the last 20 years or so. (A long way from The Strip, I may add; we neither of us gamble; she’s a desert rat, and so is her husband.) She currently can’t travel due to health problems; so once or twice a year I fly over to Vegas, or Jim and I drive over, to visit. I almost always visit in September, for various reasons (more on that later); and I just got back from the latest visit yesterday.
The first odd thing was the weather. I arrived Monday afternoon in the middle of an absolutely spectacular sky filled with big white cumulus clouds, shading into cumulo-nimbus. In desert terms, we had a thunderstorm building; I was relieved it held off until after my plane landed. But – it wasn’t especially hot. The high was only 92 – to some that may seem a lot but I’ve been there in September when it was 117. Ninety-two is merely balmy for Vegas. It didn’t top 100 the entire week – very unusual.
The thunderstorm happened Monday night to Tuesday morning, and I couldn’t figure out for the longest time what was causing those flashes of light in my room at three in the morning. Headlights on the cross street (where there’s essentially zero traffic)? Is the battery going in the smoke detector (but why no noise)? I don’t reason very well when I’m half asleep, but I finally found an east-facing window and looked out into one of the more spectacular lightning storms I’ve ever seen: big honkin’ bolt lighting, way across the valley, too far for us to hear the thunder. (This is why my brother-in-law has multiple lightning rods on the house.) Now I knew what it was, I could ignore it, so I went back to sleep.
In the morning it was – raining? In Las Vegas? Yes. The dogs were appalled. We let them out into the yard and they practically took the paint off the door coming back in. The desert tortoises in the back yard refused to come out at all. This meant some very frisky dogs that day, because nobody wanted to take them out for a walk in the rain and mud – including the dogs. It rained for several hours but dried up by noon, and in the afternoon the news began showing photos of the flooding in Henderson, which got Even More Rain. It rained on and off all day and through Tuesday night. The weather people Tuesday afternoon were marveling that the high temperature was 78, recorded at 1 AM; but looking back at the week’s stats I see it actually got up to 88. Wednesday the high was 85 – the “low high.”
By Thursday morning things were settling down, no more rain, but the high Thursday was still only 88. Friday was quiet, a little warmer; my sister went to physical therapy, I studied SQL. Then around 5:30, I heard her exclaim something, and went out to find her staring into space. JD just called, she said. He says he wanted to tell me he’s alive.
OK, I’ll turn over the hole card. I was visiting my sister (who has to have someone in the house with her) so my brother-in-law could attend the Reno Air Races. He’s gone every year for as long as I’ve known him; he is himself a pilot, now retired; he flew fighters in Vietnam and airliners for NorthWest. The Reno Air Races are a big deal for him and his service buddies, and they were all there when the P51D Mustang crashed. His preference for sitting at the top of the stands probably saved him; he was about 200 feet from the point of impact. Fortunately none of his immediate group was severely injured, although it took him until 9 o’clock Friday night to find them all, and one or two of them caught some frag.
For those of you who have read some of the wilder speculations about this incident, the pros (my brother-in-law’s buddies) are convinced that the crash was an equipment failure – they think the plane lost an elevator stabilizer, and frankly their description of what happened next suggests that a brilliant pilot died trying to kill as few people as possible. I doubt seriously that the pilot’s age (74) was a factor – if he had been impaired in any way, from what they said, he’d probably have taken out the whole grandstand.
So the rest of my vacation was spent listening to my sister answer the phone about every 15 minutes, and repeat, “JD is all right…”
The flight home was totally uneventful in clear calm weather, and I’m glad to be back.