August 23, 2023

The Mole People & Las Vegas Underground Evacuation for Hurricane Hillary 2023

the mole people underground evacuations hurricane hillary

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Susana Spiegel

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on August 23, 2023

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An underground community in Las Vegas, estimated at 75,000 people, including individuals battling mental health issues, teenagers, veterans, and addicts, face a life-threatening situation as Hurricane Hilary strengthens to a Category 4 storm.

Las Vegas is preparing for a significant weather event this weekend that could bring two years’ worth of rain in just days.

Not only are officials concerned about the 145 mph winds but also the potential for life-threatening flooding, particularly in the Las Vegas Valley’s underground sewer system where thousands of homeless people live.

Forecaster Sherry Swensk predicts heavy, consistent rainfall from Sunday to Monday morning.

The storm could wreak havoc across the Southwestern U.S., with some areas receiving up to 10 inches of rain. These desert regions, including southern California and southern Nevada, are ill-equipped to handle such downpours.

Organizations are urgently working to relocate these vulnerable residents before disaster hits.

Here, we highlight the dire circumstances of this often-overlooked community and the efforts to save them.

Unveiling the Hidden Corners of Las Vegas Underground

If you’ve ever walked down the glittering Las Vegas strip, you might be surprised to know an entirely different world below your feet.

They call themselves the Mole people.


Video Documentary by Taylor Oliveria

 

It’s a complex labyrinth stretching hundreds of miles beneath the city.

Seventy-five thousand take shelter in these storm drains in makeshift homes.

This hidden ecosystem provides some of the city’s most vulnerable residents a place to rest their heads—though it’s far from ideal.

 

Taking Refuge Underground: Why Here?

You might be wondering why anyone would choose to live in such conditions.

The reasons are as complex as the people who find themselves there.

Escaping the crucial desert heat is a huge factor.

Las Vegas isn’t exactly known for its mild climate, and for those without the means to keep cool, the underground provides a respite from the scorching temperatures.

But it’s not just about climate.

Often, societal factors drive individuals below ground.

Whether it’s losing all their money due to gambling addiction, lack of affordable housing, struggles with mental health, or battles with drug use, the underground often feels like the last available option.

It’s a sanctuary for the disenfranchised, including teenagers with nowhere else to go, veterans unable to integrate back into ‘normal’ society, and those in the grips of addiction.

So, as we prepare to navigate the imminent threat of Hurricane Hilary, let’s keep these residents in our thoughts.

They’re not just statistics or faceless people; they’re part of our community, seeking shelter just like us.

And with the storm looming, their fragile sanctuary is at risk, making the efforts to evacuate them even more critical.

Who Lives in Las Vegas’ Underground World?

So, who lives under the bustling streets of Las Vegas?

You’d find a diverse blend of individuals with unique stories and struggles.

Estimates indicate that around 75,000 people call this underground network their home.

Now, let’s not forget that within this number are subgroups—there are the mentally ill, teenagers, veterans, disabled people, and also those struggling with addictions.

And yes, we’re talking about gamblers and drug users who find solace in the underground’s relative anonymity.

Gamblers and Those Suffering From Substance Use Disorder

You’ll encounter that most underground residents are primarily in a subgroup of people grappling with the heavy chains of addiction.

Gambling and drug use might seem worlds apart, but in many cases, they’re two sides of the same coin.

It’s not just about the high of a game or a hit; it’s often about escape.

Escape from emotional pain, past trauma, or even from the harsh judgments society tends to levy on those who don’t fit the ‘norm.’

 

Vegas Stronger Organization

David Marlon, the CEO of Vegas Stronger, doesn’t mince words when talking about the situation’s urgency.

“I’m going to tell them, ‘don’t stay here,‘” Marlon told 8 News Now.

Realistic about the risks that Hurricane Hilary poses.

“It’s almost certain that someone is going to die in the Vegas Valley this weekend,” he warns.

But he’s not just sounding alarm bells; Marlon and his team are out there doing something about it.

 

More Than Volunteers: Life-Savers

David Marlon and his fellow volunteers from Vegas Stronger made their routine trip to the underground tunnels last Friday but with greater urgency.

As they ventured into this hidden world, their mission was not just to provide supplies but to offer an escape route from the rising floodwaters.

“It’s someone’s son or daughter; it’s someone’s mom or dad,” Marlon reminds us,

“And they deserve our compassion.”

 

Immediate Assistance: Beyond Words

This is not just about kind words and emotional support.

The Vegas Stronger team comes prepared.

They carry Narcan and Fentanyl test strips to offer immediate medical help to those struggling with addiction.

“It’s important with everyone that we look them in the eye,” Marlon emphasizes.

“That we speak to them with dignity.”

 

A Rope to Safety

And what’s the endgame for Marlon and his team?

It’s simply: “Our job is to throw them a rope,” Marlon says.

“If they grab the rope, we will pull them in the boat.”

They’ve already seen success; one man has been helped out of the tunnels and into a detox program.

And they plan to continue their life-saving efforts throughout the weekend, providing a real-life safety net for the most vulnerable.

 

Ongoing Efforts

The work isn’t done.

The Vegas Stronger volunteers plan to visit the underground community over the weekend several times, warning people about the imminent storms and offering a way out.

They remain a beacon of hope and compassion, proving that light can find a way in even the darkest tunnels.

For more information on how you can assist or get involved with Vegas Stronger.

 

Shine A Light Las Vegas

Shine A Light Las Vegas is another pivotal organization working tirelessly to alleviate the plight of those living in the city’s underground.

Unlike any conventional homeless outreach program, its mission is uniquely tailored to the specific challenges of life below the surface.

Through coordinated efforts with local authorities and healthcare providers, they aim to lead homeless individuals out of the dark tunnels of Las Vegas and into rehabilitation programs.

They offer immediate relief through food, clothing, and medical assistance and provide pathways to long-term recovery solutions like mental health services and addiction treatment programs.

With the looming threat of Hurricane Hilary, the work of Shine A Light Las Vegas becomes ever more critical as they endeavor to bring these vulnerable residents from the dangerous shadows into the safety of organized care and shelter.

If you or a loved one is under these tunnels during this time or want to volunteer and learn more here at Shine A Light Las Vegas.

 

Hurricane Hilary 2023 and its Impact on the Underground

Weather Predictions: When Rainfall Records Are Shattered

As Hurricane Hilary 2023 gains power, meteorologists are sounding the alarm.

The weather predictions aren’t just unsettling and unprecedented for the region.

According to local forecasters, this storm could unleash two years’ worth of rain over just a few days.

Imagine the desert region of Las Vegas, unaccustomed to frequent or heavy rainfall, suddenly having to deal with a deluge it’s ill-equipped to handle.

Streets could turn into rivers, and arid lands might transform into flood zones.

 

Risks for the Underground: From Bad to Catastrophic

But what does this mean for the people living in Las Vegas’ underground tunnels?

First and foremost, we’re talking about the imminent threat of drowning.

These tunnels were designed for stormwater drainage, not human habitation.

When torrential rains come down, water levels can rise rapidly, leaving little time for escape.

Loss of belongings is another issue; many of these residents have limited possessions, but what they have is essential for survival.

And then there’s the problem of disease.

Wet conditions cause people to get ill.

For a population that’s already vulnerable, with limited access to medical care, the spread of disease could be another disaster waiting to happen.

So, as Hurricane Hilary draws nearer, the stakes are sky-high for the underground community.

That’s why the efforts of organizations like Vegas Stronger and Shine A Light Las Vegas

are admirable and essential.

They’re racing against time to mitigate these dangers, turning dire predictions into opportunities for action and, hopefully, survival.

 

The Responders: Organizations Leading the Charge for Safety and Rescue

When a crisis looms, the tireless work of unsung heroes often makes a difference between life and death.

In the case of the impending Hurricane Hilary, several vital organizations have taken the helm of evacuation and support efforts for Las Vegas’ underground community.

Vegas Stronger and Shine A Light Las Vegas are among the front-runners in this critical mission, both uniquely positioned to offer help where it’s needed most.

 

Strategies and Logistical Challenges: No Easy Feat

Let’s not sugarcoat it: Alerting and relocating a primarily hidden population is fraught with logistical challenges.

To begin with, these underground tunnels stretch for hundreds of miles, making it hard even to locate everyone who needs help.

Then, there’s the issue of convincing people to leave what they consider their home, however unsafe it may be.

Organizations are employing various strategies, from traditional on-foot patrols to leveraging local connections within the community.

They’re bringing in essentials like food, clothing, and medical supplies as immediate relief measures but also offering a way out—a chance for a safer, better life above ground.

 

Aiding Those Struggling with Addiction

Here’s where specialized help comes into play.

Many underground residents struggle with addictions, whether gambling or substance abuse.

For this subgroup, evacuating isn’t just a matter of physical movement; it’s a psychological battle.

Vegas Stronger is equipped with Narcan and Fentanyl test strips for immediate medical assistance, while Shine A Light Las Vegas offers pathways to longer-term addiction treatment programs.

Both organizations work tirelessly to engage these individuals, understanding that looking someone in the eye and speaking to them with dignity can often be the first step in pulling them out of their isolated, dangerous worlds.

So, as the clouds gather and the winds howl, these organizations’ dedication offers a glimmer of hope.

They navigate intricate physical and emotional labyrinths, armed with compassion and a deep sense of urgency, to bring vulnerable residents from darkness into light.

 

Obstacles and Challenges: The Complexities of Evacuating an Invisible City

Evacuating an underground community isn’t as straightforward as it seems,

The residents have diverse and unique needs that complicate an already challenging situation.

Some are struggling with mental illnesses, some are disabled, and others are grappling with addiction and fear of withdrawal.

When you factor in pregnant women and teenagers, it becomes clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to evacuation.

Each individual requires a tailored plan that addresses their specific challenges, which organizations like Las Vegas Stronger and Shine A Light Las Vegas are acutely aware of.

You see, you’re rescuing people and offering specialized care and attention.

 

Stigmatization and Reluctance: The Invisible Walls

Why wouldn’t someone want to be saved, you might ask?

But it’s not that simple.

The stigma associated with homelessness and addiction can create invisible walls thicker than any physical barrier.

Many individuals in the underground community have faced social exclusion and may hesitate to rejoin a society they feel has rejected them.

They might resist help or even view rescuers with suspicion.

That’s why the compassionate approach taken by organizations working in the field is crucial.

Words matter.

Attitude matters.

Respect and dignity can often be the key to breaking down these walls.

 

Logistical Quagmires: The Practical Side of Things

Then come the logistical challenges that can make your head spin.

Lack of proper identification is a common issue, making it difficult to place individuals in shelters that require ID verification.

Health conditions can be a concern, requiring immediate medical attention that isn’t readily available.

And let’s not forget the law enforcement angle; some residents may have legal concerns that make them hesitant to surface, fearing arrest or other repercussions.

So when you hear about these evacuation efforts, remember that behind each rescue is a tangled web of logistical issues that organizations must navigate carefully.

The next time you hear about the complexities of evacuating the underground homeless community, you’ll know it’s not just a matter of moving people from Point A to Point B.

It’s about understanding their unique needs, overcoming social stigmas, and navigating a maze of logistical hurdles, all while racing against the ticking clock of an impending natural disaster.

 

Governmental Response: Preparing for Future Extremes

While the immediate focus is on rescue and relief, the longer-term question looms:

How is the government planning for future extreme weather events?

In the wake of Hurricane Hilary 2023, there’s a heightened awareness that conventional emergency protocols might not be sufficient to deal with the unique challenges of an underground community.

Local and state governments are in the process of revising evacuation strategies, with considerations for vulnerable populations.

For instance, there’s talk about installing early warning systems in these tunnels and creating more accessible emergency shelters that can accommodate the unique needs of this community.

These are steps in the right direction, but more work must be done.

As a concerned citizen, you should monitor these policy shifts and hold officials accountable for inclusive disaster preparedness.

 

Recommendations: Supporting the Vulnerable, Not Just in Crises

How can society better support vulnerable communities, especially those with addiction issues?

It’s time to think beyond the emergency kits and lifeboats.

Long-term support systems must be established to improve access to mental health services and addiction treatment programs.

After all, prevention is better than cure.

And let’s not forget public awareness.

Dispelling the stigmas around homelessness and addiction is a community-wide responsibility that requires education and empathy.

If you want to make a difference, consider advocating for policies that offer comprehensive social support for the vulnerable.

Lobby for increased funding for mental health and addiction services.

Support organizations already doing this work, and encourage others in your community to do the same.

 

The Pattern of Struggles: More Than Just Labels

When we talk about the homeless community in Las Vegas, it’s easy to fall into the trap of stereotypes.

But the reality is far more complex than what mainstream narratives often portray.

You see, homelessness doesn’t discriminate; it’s an issue that affects people from all walks of life.

Veterans, pregnant women, teenagers, and everyday citizens who’ve hit a rough patch—all find themselves in the same predicament.

Alongside them are individuals struggling with addiction or criminal backgrounds, all sharing the common challenge of homelessness.

It’s not just a ‘type’ of person who ends up on the streets or in the tunnels; it’s a mosaic of human beings, each with their own story and struggles.

 

Stigma and Misunderstanding: The Barriers We Must Break

Then there’s the added weight of stigma.

Whether it’s the war veteran grappling with PTSD, the teenager fleeing an abusive home, or the gambler who’s lost more than just money, stigma exacerbates their challenges.

Society often views homelessness, addiction, and mental health issues as character flaws rather than as complex problems often rooted in systemic issues or medical conditions.

Imagine already fighting a daily battle for survival, only also to battle societal judgment.

It’s a weight no one should have to bear alone.

 

Changing The Narrative: Your Role in Raising Awareness

So, how can you play a part in changing this narrative?

First and foremost, let’s talk about it—talk about the complexities, the root causes, and the systemic failures that lead to homelessness.

Mental illness and addiction are often medical conditions, not moral failings.

Whether in your living room discussions, social media, or community meetings, the topic deserves accurate representation and nuanced understanding.

But don’t stop at talk.

Support organizations that work to break down these stigmas.

Advocate for policy changes that address the root causes of homelessness and offer holistic solutions, including mental health services and addiction treatment programs.

If you want to take it up a notch, educate others.

Use it to spread awareness, whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or just someone with a platform.

Share stories that humanize rather than demonize.

Because empathy and understanding are our best tools for making real change.

Remember, we can’t begin to solve the problem until we fully grasp its complexity.

And grasping that complexity starts with shedding our preconceptions and learning to see the human faces—each with its unique story—behind the word ‘homeless.’

 

In The Eye of The Storm

As we grapple with the impending arrival of Hurricane Hilary 2023, let’s also grasp its opportunity—a loud wake-up call telling us that something in our societal fabric needs mending.

While immediate and crucial, the emergency response to the hurricane is also symbolic of the broader social issues we often ignore, from homelessness to mental health.

Right now, countless volunteers, organizations, and officials are coming together in a collective effort to protect one of the most vulnerable communities in Las Vegas.

But what happens when the storm passes?

Does that collaboration end, or can it be the beginning of something far-reaching and transformative?

 

How You Can Help

You can carry forward the momentum ignited by this crisis.

Start by staying informed and educating others.

When discussions at your dinner table or workplace shift to topics like homelessness or mental health, offer a more nuanced perspective.

Don’t allow stereotypes and stigmas to continue unchallenged.

And remember, advocacy doesn’t have a weather season—it’s year-round.

Financial contributions are always needed, and not just when calamity strikes.

The organizations on the front lines today will still be there tomorrow, working to help vulnerable populations.

And lastly, don’t underestimate the power of hands-on involvement.

Whether volunteering your time or skills, offering employment opportunities to those trying to rebuild their lives, or simply showing up at community meetings to voice your support for more inclusive policies—every little bit helps.

The urgency of Hurricane Hilary 2023 has accelerated our focus on deeply entrenched societal issues.

But it’s what we do after the storm that truly defines us.

Let’s turn reactive measures into proactive policies.

Let’s make this the watershed moment where we decide to weather the storm and build a better-prepared society for all kinds of challenges.

So let’s get started—because the clock isn’t just ticking on the hurricane; it’s on our opportunity to make meaningful, lasting change.

If you or someone you care about is facing addiction or mental health challenges, we encourage you to contact us at Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, AZ.

Our treatment facility is grounded in evidence-based practices and specializes in dual diagnosis to promote long-term recovery by addressing underlying issues.

You don’t have to do it alone. Let us help you today!

Our Sources

Las Vegas Non-Profit Warns People Living In Underground Tunnels of Incoming Storms, Offers Help

Las Vegas Stronger

Shine A Light Las Vegas

Published: 08/23/ 2023

Contributor: Susana Spiegel

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Author & Reviewers

susana spiegel recovery writer and SEO expert
RECOVERY WRITER & ADVOCATE

Susana is a recovery writer and advocate with over 8 years in addiction recovery. She is passionate about sharing accurate and helpful information about mental health, addiction, and recovery. She holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and has over 7 years of working in the addiction field. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director
CLINICAL DIRECTOR & REVIEWER

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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