Death Valley inundated by record flooding, stranding around 1,000 people in the park

Comment

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

The park received 1.46 inches of precipitation in the Furnace Creek area – just below the previous calendar day record of 1.47 inches, set on April 15, 1988. That’s about three-quarters of what the area receives typically in an average year, 1.94 inches, and is the highest amount ever recorded in August. The lowest, driest, and hottest place in the United States, Death Valley averages just 0.11 inches of rain in August.

Saturday morning “everything is fine,” said Nikki Jones, an assistant waiter at a restaurant in the park’s Ranch Inn, who also lives there and posted a video of his colleague’s Twitter flood. Jones told the Washington Post that the floodwaters receded Friday afternoon, but light debris remains on the roads.

“CalTrans did an amazing job of cleaning it up as soon as possible,” she told the Post in a Twitter post. “Drove the roads today.”

Jones said some people are stranded at the Inn at the Oasis due to car bombs, “but people can get out of the park today.”

“Flood waters pushed dumpsters into parked cars, causing the cars to crash into each other,” the National Park Service said in a statement Friday. “In addition, many facilities are flooded, including hotel rooms and commercial offices.

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

The torrent was triggered by the southwest monsoon, which develops each summer when prevailing winds shift from west to south, drawing a wave of moisture north. This moisture can fuel vigorous downpours that smother the parched desert landscape. Because there is little soil to absorb the rains, any measurable rain can cause flooding in low-lying areas, and heavier rains can accumulate in normally dry streams, triggering flash floods.

This year’s southwest monsoon was particularly intense, which helped relieve drought conditions in the region, but also led to extensive flooding. Severe flooding recently affected areas around Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Las Vegas floods send water gushing into casinos

The Death Valley flood also comes amid a series of extreme rain events across the lower 48 states. In the week spanning late July to early August, three 1 in 1,000 rainfall events occurred – flooding St. Louis, eastern Kentucky and southeastern Illinois. Earlier this summer, Yellowstone National Park was also flooded.

How two 1 in 1,000 year rain events hit the United States in two days

Death Valley holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth, along with several runners-up. Officially, Death Valley reached 134 degrees on July 10, 1913, but some climatologists have questioned the legitimacy of that reading. The next highest temperature on record, 131 degrees from Kebili, Tunisia, set on July 7, 1931, is also controversial. Last summer and the summer before, Death Valley reached 130 degrees, which could be the highest reliably measured pair of temperatures on Earth if the readings for Tunisia in 1931 and the Valley of the Death of 1913 are not taken into account.

Death Valley soars to 130 degrees, matching Earth’s highest temperature in at least 90 years

Rains inundated the park, trapping vehicles in debris, according to a video tweeted by John Sirlin, an Arizona-based storm chaser. He wrote that roads were blocked by boulders and fallen palm trees and visitors struggled for six hours to leave the park.

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

Flash floods close roads in 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 out there.”

“There were at least two dozen cars that were run over and stuck in there,” he said, adding that he had seen washouts running several feet deep although he hadn’t seen no one injured, and the NPS reported no injuries Friday.

Rare summer rain last July also drenched Death Valley, bringing 0.74 inches a day to Furnace Creek about two weeks after the park set the world record for the hottest average daily temperature, at 118.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

Scientists say that human-caused global warming is intensifying extreme precipitation events. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found evidence that southwest monsoon rainfall has increased since the 1970s.

Leave a Comment