DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Flash flooding in Death Valley National Park triggered by heavy rains Friday buried cars, forced authorities to close all entrance roads and exit from the park and left about 1,000 people stranded, authorities said.
The park near the California-Nevada state line received at least 1.7 inches of rain in the Furnace Creek area, which park officials said in a statement represented “nearly a full year’s worth of rain in a morning”. The average annual rainfall in the park is 4.8 centimeters.
About 60 vehicles were buried in the rubble and about 500 visitors and 500 park workers were stranded, 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 open a road allowing park visitors to exit.
It was him second major flood event in the park this week. Some highways were closed Monday after they were inundated with mud and debris from flash flooding that also hit western Nevada and northern Arizona hard.
The rain started around 2 a.m., said John Sirlin, a photographer for an Arizona-based adventure company who witnessed the flooding while sitting on a rock on a hillside trying to take pictures of lightning flashes. as the storm approached.
“It was more extreme than anything I’ve ever seen out there,” said Sirlin, who lives in Chandler, Arizona, and has been visiting the park since 2016. He is the lead guide for Incredible Weather Adventures and said he started chasing storms in Minnesota and the high plains in the 1990s.
“I have never seen it to the point where entire trees and rocks came crashing down. The noise of some of the rocks coming down the mountain was just unbelievable,” she said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
“Many washes were flowing several feet deep. There are probably three or four foot rocks covering the trail,” she said.
Sirlin said it took him about six hours to drive 35 miles out of the park from near the Inn at Death Valley.
“There were at least two dozen cars that were crushed and stuck there,” he said, adding that he saw no one injured “or high water rescues.”
It was the second major flooding event in the park this week. Some highways were closed Monday after they were inundated with mud and debris from flash flooding that also hit western Nevada and northern Arizona hard.
During Friday’s storms, “floodwaters pushed dumpsters into parked cars, causing cars to collide with each other. In addition, many facilities were flooded, including hotel rooms and business offices,” the park statement said.
A water system that provides water to park residents and offices also failed after a line that was being repaired broke, according to the statement.
A flash flood warning for the park and surrounding area expired at 12:45 p.m. Friday, but the flood advisory remained in effect through evening, the National Weather Service said.