DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Flooding from heavy rain in Death Valley National Park on Friday submerged cars, forced officials to close all roads in and out of the park, and left nearly 1,000 people stranded. , officials said.
At least 1.7 inches (4.3 cm) of rain fell in the Furnace Creek area of the park, near the California-Nevada state line, which park officials said in a statement was “almost a year’s worth of rain in one morning.” ” The park’s average annual rainfall is 1.9 inches (4.8 cm).
About 60 vehicles were buried in the debris and about 500 visitors and 500 park workers were trapped, park officials said. There were no immediate reports of injuries, and the California Department of Transportation estimated it would take four to six hours to reopen the road to park visitors.
This was the second major flood event in the park this week. Some roads were closed Monday after they were inundated with mud and debris from flash floods that also hit western Nevada and northern Arizona.
The rain started around 2 a.m., said John Serlin, a photographer with an Arizona adventure company who witnessed the flooding while standing on a hillside trying to photograph lightning as the storm approached. I was doing.
“It was more intense than anything I’ve ever seen out there,” said Serlin, who lives in Chandler, Arizona, and has been visiting the park since 2016. He is a guide to incredible weather adventures and said he started chasing storms in Minnesota. and the highlands in the 1990s.
“I’ve never seen it to the point where all the trees and rocks are being washed away. The noise of some rocks coming down the mountain was just unbelievable,” he said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
“There were several gullies running several feet deep. There’s probably 3 or 4 feet of rocks on the road,” he said.
Serlin said it took him about 6 hours to drive about 35 miles (56 km) to the park from near the inn in Death Valley.
“There were at least two dozen cars that broke down and got stuck there,” he said, adding that he didn’t see anyone injured “or rescued by the high water.”
During Friday’s rainstorm, “floodwater pushed dumpster containers into parked cars, causing cars to crash into each other. Additionally, many facilities, including hotel rooms and business offices, were flooded.” The park said in a statement.
A water system that supplies it to the park’s residents and offices also failed after a line broke and was being repaired, the statement said.
The flash flood warning for the park and surrounding area expired at 12:45 p.m. Friday, but a flood advisory remained in effect through the evening, the National Weather Service said.