Death Valley drenched by record flooding, stranding about 1,000 in park


Death Valley National Park was closed Saturday after exceptional amounts of rain drenched the park on Friday, leading to flash flooding that left about 1,000 visitors and park staff stranded.

The park received 1.46 inches of rain in the Furnace Creek area—just short of the previous calendar day record of 1.47 inches, set April 15, 1988. This amounts to about three-quarters of what the area typically receives in an average year. , 1.94 inches, and is the largest amount ever recorded in August. Death Valley, the lowest, driest, and hottest location in the United States, averages just 0.11 inches of rain in August.

As of Saturday morning, “all is well,” said Nikki Jones, a server assistant at a restaurant at the park’s Ranch Inn, who also lives there and posted a video of her colleague’s flooding on Twitter. Jones told The Washington Post that the flooding has abated Friday afternoon, but light debris remains on the roads.

“CalTrans did a great job of cleaning it up as quickly as possible,” she told The Post in a Twitter post. “I rode the road today.”

Jones said some people have been stranded at the Inn at the Oasis because of enclosed cars, “but people can leave the park today.”

“The floodwater pushed dumpsters into parked cars, causing cars to collide with each other,” the National Park Service said in a statement Friday. “In addition, many facilities are under water, including hotel rooms and corporate offices.

The NPS did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for an update on Saturday morning.

The deluge was caused by the southwest monsoon, which develops each summer as prevailing winds shift from the west to the south and pull a wave of humidity north. This moisture can cause powerful downpours that engulf the parched desert landscape. Because there is little ground to absorb the rain, any measurable rainfall can cause flooding in low-lying areas, and heavier rainfall can accumulate in normally dry creeks, causing flash flooding.

This year’s southwest monsoon was particularly intense – helping to alleviate the drought in the region, but also leading to many significant floods. Severe flooding has recently hit the Las Vegas and Phoenix areas.

Floods in Las Vegas cause water to flow through casinos

The Death Valley flood also comes amid a series of extreme rainfall events in the Lower 48 states. During the week of late July and early August, three 1 in 1,000 year rains occurred: St. Louis, Eastern Kentucky, and Southeast Illinois flooded. Earlier this summer, Yellowstone National Park was also flooded.

How two 1-in-1,000-year rain events hit the US in two days

Death Valley has the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth, as well as several runners-up. Death Valley officially reached 134 degrees on July 10, 1913, but some climatologists have questioned the legitimacy of that reading. The second-highest temperature on record, 131 degrees from Kebili, Tunisia, recorded on July 7, 1931, is also controversial. Last summer and the summer before, Death Valley reached 130 degrees, which is arguably the highest pair of reliably measured temperatures on Earth if the measurements from 1931 Tunisia and 1913 Death Valley are not taken into account.

Death Valley rises to 130 degrees, comparable to highest temperature on Earth in at least 90 years

According to a video tweeted by Arizona storm chaser John Sirlin, rain engulfed the park, leaving vehicles trapped in the rubble. He wrote that roads were blocked by boulders and fallen palm trees, and visitors had struggled for six hours to leave the park.

Earlier this week, flash floods hit parts of western Nevada, forcing some roads leading from Las Vegas to the park to be closed. Flash floods also hit parts of northern Arizona.

Flash floods close roads to Death Valley National Park

Sirlin told the Associated Press that Friday’s rain started around 2 a.m. and was “more extreme than anything I’ve seen there.”

“There were at least two dozen cars that were vandalized and got stuck in them,” he said, adding that he saw washes flowing several feet deep, though he saw no injuries, and the NPS reported no injuries as of Friday.

Last July, rare summer rains also soaked Death Valley, yielding 0.74 inches a day at Furnace Creek, about two weeks after the park set the world record for the hottest daily average temperature, at 118.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

Desert showers: Rare summer rains soaked Death Valley and parts of California on Monday

Scientists say man-made climate warming is intensifying extreme precipitation events. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found some evidence that Southwest monsoon rainfall has increased since the 1970s.

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