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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 caused flash flooding 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 stuck inside the park, officials said.

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

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

“Whole trees and boulders were washed away,” said John Sirlin, a photographer for an Arizona-based adventure company, who saw the flooding as he climbed a hillside rock where he was trying to take photos of lightning as the storm approached.

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

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

The storm followed another major flooding event earlier this week in the park 120 miles (193 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas. Some roads were closed Monday after being swamped by mud and debris from flooding that hit western Nevada and northern Arizona hard.

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

“It was more extreme than anything I’ve seen there,” said Sirlin, the lead guide for Incredible Weather Adventures who began chasing storms in Minnesota and the high plains in the 1990s.

“A lot of washes were flowing several feet deep. There are rocks probably 3 or 4 feet covering the road,” he said.

Sirlin said it took him about six 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 crashed and got stuck in there,” he said, adding that he didn’t see anyone injured “or rescued in the water.”

During Friday’s downpours, “floodwater pushed trash cans into parked cars, causing the cars to collide with each other. In addition, many facilities are flooded, such as hotel rooms and business offices,” the park’s statement said.

A water system that provides it for park residents and offices also failed after a line that was being repaired broke, the statement said.

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

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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

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