LAS VEGAS -- They started arriving at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign as the first big snowflakes began to fall Wednesday night -- landing softly and slowly turning the green artificial turf around it to white.
Debbie Dixon was so excited, she laughed and clapped and tried to take selfies with her friends to capture the moment of pure, unadulterated joy of feeling the snow hit her face and collect on her jacket.
"One. Two. Three," the 44-year-old Henderson, Nev., resident said as she and her friends crowded into the frame of the smartphone.
Around her, people posed in front of the sign, its bright lights illuminating the falling flakes. Across Las Vegas Boulevard, snow began accumulating on the wings of airplanes at McCarran International Airport.
It was the second time in a week Las Vegas has been hit with snow. Dixon dismissed Sunday's storm as weak compared to what the region got Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. "That was OK," she said. "But this is really snowing."
The National Weather Service in Las Vegas reported Thursday morning that the official snowfall for Feb. 20 in Las Vegas was 0.5 inches -- breaking a daily snowfall record for the date. It also reported that it was the second-latest date in winter when a half-inch or more was ever recorded. That record was set on Feb. 25, 1987, when 0.6 inches fell.
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The single-day record for snowfall in Las Vegas was 7.4 inches on Jan. 31, 1979.
McCarran sits at an elevation of about 2,000 feet, and the western edge of the city that leads into Red Rock Canyon climbs upwards of 3,500 feet. Since 1937, the city has seen more than an inch of snowfall 20 times. But Wednesday was only the second day in two decades with measurable snow at McCarran, National Weather Service meteorologist Jenn Varian said.
Christine Crews, spokeswoman at McCarran, said that as of 8:30 a.m. Thursday, about a hundred flights were canceled and delays were averaging about two hours.
She said the airport has only two scrapers and some sweepers to assist with scraping icy runways.