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Vegas Cleans Up After Storm

Cars, homes, and businesses were being dug out Friday as the muddy residue of a fierce desert rainstorm covered parts of Las Vegas up to the hubcaps, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.

At a motel battered by fast-rising floodwaters, front desk manager Linda Placencia was still thinking about the unpredictable power of nature.

"Have you ever seen anything like this?" Placencia asked. "I just told my general manager, I said we just lived through a little natural disaster."

Usually, Las Vegas gets only about 4 inches of rain in an entire year. Thursday it got 3 inches in a few hours, with 2 inches falling in little more than an hour. Those are the kind of numbers that brought the city nothing but bad luck.

"It's a wide strip of devastation," Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn said after taking a helicopter tour of flooded areas Thursday evening, when the water finally started to recede.

There were near misses and daring rescues during the storm, including at least two deaths.

Police Officer Cornell Madison was there to help a mother worried she couldn't carry her baby to safety through the powerful current.

Grabbing the child in the nick of time, Madison said, "I was just worried about that baby, it feels good to hold the little baby."

Pounding rain turned usually dry creek beds into raging, dangerous rivers. The fast-rising water flooded over the banks and onto the streets, making roads treacherous.

"It was picking up cars and throwing them around like toothpicks," said Robert Anderson, who watched as his neighbor's mobile home was swept away.

At the fire department, the dispatch board lit up as calls for help to fire and police stretched emergency services to their limit.

"It's a nightmare. It's one of the worst things I've ever seen," said Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Scott Flabi.

In fact, the flash flood is the worst in the city in at least 15 years. The storm was powered by the collision of three whether systems, one filled with warm, moist air from Mexico.

Property damage is still being tallied in both residential areas and along the famed Las Vegas strip.

There was some damage on the famous strip but the major effect of the storm was to drive tourists into the casinos and may actually have helped business. An exception was Ceasar's Palace, where the palatial shopping center called the Forum was closed Friday for clean-up.

As the drying mud is shoveled and washed away, Las Vegas is still buried in something you can't see: humid, sticky air. That's something unusual for the dry desert city, something that suggests this strange weather pattern could bring more trouble yet.