Death Valley National Park hit by record rainfall, flash flooding, stranding thousands of visitors and workers

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CA — Record rainfall on Friday triggered flash floods in Death Valley National Park that swept away cars, closed all roads and stranded hundreds of visitors and workers.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, but about 60 vehicles were buried in mud and debris and about 500 visitors and 500 park workers were stranded in the park, officials said.

The park near the California-Nevada state line received 1.46 inches (3.71 centimeters) of rain in the Furnace Creek area. That’s about 75% of what the area normally gets in a year, and more than ever recorded for the entire month of August.

The only day with more rain since 1936 was April 15, 1988, when 1.47 inches (3.73 centimeters) fell, park officials said.

“Whole trees and boulders were washed down,” said John Sirlin, a photographer with an Arizona-based adventure company who witnessed the flooding as he sat on a boulder on the hillside and tried to photograph lightning as the storm approached.

“The noise of some rocks coming down the mountain was just amazing,” he said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.

Park officials did not immediately respond to requests for an update Friday night.

The storm followed another major flooding event in the park 120 miles northeast of Las Vegas earlier this week. Some roads were closed Monday after being inundated with mud and debris from flash floods that also hit western Nevada and northern Arizona hard.

The rain started around 2 a.m. Friday, according to Sirlin, who lives in Chandler, Arizona and has been visiting the park since 2016.

“It was more extreme than anything I saw there,” said Sirlin, lead guide for Incredible Weather Adventures, which began chasing storms in Minnesota and the Highlands in the 1990s.

“Many washes flowed several feet deep. There are rocks that are probably 3 or 4 feet covering the road,” he said.

Sirlin said it took him about 6 hours to drive about 35 miles (56 kilometers) out of the park near the Inn at Death Valley.

“There were at least two dozen cars that were smashed and stuck there,” he said, adding that he didn’t see any casualties “or flood rescues.”

During Friday’s rainstorms, “flood water pushed dumpsters into parked cars, causing cars to collide with each other. Also, many facilities will be flooded, including hotel rooms and business offices,” the park’s statement said.

A water system it provides to park residents and offices also failed after a line burst, which has been repaired, the statement said.

A flash flood warning for the park and the surrounding area expired at 12:45 p.m. Friday, but a flood warning remained in effect through the evening, the National Weather Service said.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Death Valley National Park hit by record rainfall, flash flooding, stranding thousands of visitors and workers

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