Hoover Dam reopens to cars; airports still closed in Nevada
LAS VEGAS (AP) – As Nevada residents turned their attention to the victims of four deadly terrorist attacks, Hoover Dam reopened to passenger car traffic while aircraft sat idle at airports in Las Vegas and Reno.
Military bases remained on highest alert Wednesday and security was tight at public buildings throughout Nevada, although Daron Borst, an FBI special agent in Las Vegas, said there have been ”no credible threats” in the state.
Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn declared Wednesday a statewide day of mourning for the untold number of victims of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Teachers and students at Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas began that mourning after learning that teacher and co-worker Barbara Edwards, 58, was aboard American Airlines flight 77, which was en route from Dulles International Airport in Washington to Los Angeles when it was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. All aboard the plane were presumed dead.
A foreign language teacher, Edwards taught French and German at the school over the past four years, said Palo Verde Principal Theresa Smith, who told Edwards’ colleagues of her presumed death and led the staff in a moment of silence at a faculty meeting.
”Right now we are all feeling kind of blank,” Smith said. ”The teachers and students are just trying to grieve in their own way. We will be providing counseling and will be doing everything we can to help people get through this.”
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman asked city residents to pause for a moment of silence at 8:45 a.m. PDT Wednesday to mourn those killed and injured when hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the Pentagon in Washington and a rural area in Pennsylvania.
Prayer vigils were held throughout the state.
Northern Nevada Muslims gathered Tuesday night to pray for the victims of the attacks, even as a caller to the Sparks mosque was threatening all Muslims in the name of revenge.
”The caller said he would go after people who looked like Muslims, who dressed differently,” said Tariq Kuraishy, a trustee for the Northern Nevada Muslim Center. ”It’s a sad thing.”
But displays of patriotism and support were widespread.
Military surplus stores and flag supply companies reported a run on American flags – and gas masks.
”We sold more yesterday than we sold in the last three months,” owner Billy Conn said Wednesday at his Las Vegas store, F&C Liquidators.
Blood banks in Las Vegas and Reno were swamped for a second day as Nevada residents answered a call for donations to aid victims.
”It’s just unbelievable, the response we got,” said Sue Blancato, a clerk at United Blood Services in Las Vegas, where more than 800 people lined up to donate, four times the normal donors. In Reno, donations were more than triple the normal 100 per day rate.
An MGM Grand hotel sign flashed ”God Bless America” and the electronic image of the Stars and Stripes at half-mast above the Las Vegas Strip while gambling continued inside casinos.
Hotel officials said stranded air travelers filled rooms nearest the airport and spread up the Strip. But in a city with almost 125,000 rooms to rent, there remained room at the inn.
”We basically have a handful of rooms available,” said Alan Feldman spokesman for MGM Mirage Inc., which manages about 18,000 hotel rooms at seven Las Vegas hotel-casinos.
”If the air embargo continues into Friday,” Feldman said, ”we’ll hit a crunch with people with reservations driving in from California at the same time other guests are still here.”
Normally noisy runways at the Las Vegas and Reno airports remained quiet Wednesday after the government put resumption of full schedules in limbo.
Airlines were allowed to redeploy empty planes, and flights that were diverted to airports other than their destinations were allowed to return to the air Wednesday – but only after following strict new security guidelines.
”The Reno-Tahoe International Airport remains closed in response to what’s going on at the national level,” spokesman Adam Mayberry said.
The lack of air service caused the cancellation of a number of events along the Las Vegas Strip. A boxing match and several concerts, including a Beach Boys performance, were postponed because of travel disruptions.
College football games involving UNLV and University of Nevada, Reno were among those rescheduled.
The Las Vegas Convention Center reopened Wednesday for a 30,000-member international baking convention after closing Tuesday because of a bomb threat.
Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman Bob McKenzie said buses, trucks and any vehicles towing trailers – including U-Hauls and motorists towing boats – aren’t being allowed over Hoover Dam on U.S. Highway 93.
Those vehicles are being directed to cross the Colorado River between Laughlin, Nev., and Bullhead City, Ariz. – a detour of more than 100 miles.
The Hoover Dam road is a main route from Phoenix to Las Vegas. It was closed as a security precaution.
A Nellis Air Force Base spokeswoman, 2nd Lt. Carla Pampe, said Wednesday that the base – like other military installations around the country – remained at the highest security alert.
Only essential and military personnel were being allowed on the base near Las Vegas, she said, and a base elementary school reamined closed.
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