DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Record rainfall 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 trapped inside the park, officials said.
1.46 inches (3.71 cm) of rain fell in the Furnace Creek area of the park near the California-Nevada state line. This is about 75% of what the region normally receives in a year and more than was recorded in the entire month of August.
Since 1936, the only day with more rain was April 15, 1988, when 1.47 inches (3.73 cm) fell, park officials said.
“Whole trees and boulders were being washed away,” said John Serlin, a photographer with an Arizona adventure company, who witnessed the flooding while standing on a boulder where he was struck by lightning as the storm approached. was trying to take pictures of
“The noise from some of the rocks coming down the mountain was just unbelievable,” 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 earlier this week in the park, 120 miles (193 km) northeast of Las Vegas. Some roads were closed Monday after they were inundated with mud and debris from flash floods that also hit western Nevada and northern Arizona.
Friday’s rain started around 2 a.m., according to Sarlin, who lives in Chandler, Arizona, and has been visiting the park since 2016.
“It was more intense than anything I’ve seen out there,” said Serlin, an incredible weather adventure leader who began chasing storms in Minnesota and the high plains in the 1990s.
“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 the 35 miles (56 km) from his nearest park 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 failed after a line broke that 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.