Heavy rains on Friday caused flash flooding in Death Valley National Park, which buried automobiles, led officials to close all entrance and exit roads, and left nearly 1,000 people stranded, according to officials.
At least 1.7 inches of rain fell in the Furnace Creek region of the park near the California-Nevada state boundary, which, according to park officials, was “almost a year’s worth of rain in one morning.” 1.9 inches of rain fall on average each year at the park.
According to park officials, roughly 500 guests and 500 park employees were stranded and about 60 vehicles were covered in debris.
The California Department of Transportation predicted it would take four to six hours to open a road that would allow park visitors to depart, and there were no early reports of injuries.
It was the park’s second significant flooding incident this week. After being flooded with mud and debris from flash floods that also severely affected western Nevada and northern Arizona, some roadways were closed on Monday.
According to John Sirlin, a photographer for an Arizona-based adventure firm who watched the flooding while perched on a hillside boulder trying to capture images of lightning as the storm approached, the rain began around 2 a.m.
“It was more extreme than anything I’ve seen 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’ve never seen it to the point where entire trees and boulders were washing down. The noise from some of the rocks coming down the mountain was just incredible,” he said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
“A lot of washes were flowing several feet deep. There are rocks probably 3 or 4 feet covering the road,” he said.
Sirlin claimed that from close to the Death Valley Inn, the drive outside the park took him roughly 6 hours.
He added that he had not seen any injuries “or any high water rescues,” but that there had been at least two dozen cars that had gotten damaged and trapped in the area.
The rainstorms on Friday were the “Dumpster containers were pushed into parked cars by flood waters, resulting in car accidents. In addition, a number of facilities, including hotel rooms and offices, “said the park statement.
According to the statement, a line ruptured that was being repaired, and the water system that supplies it for park employees and residents also failed.
Friday at 12:45 p.m., a flash flood warning for the park and the neighborhood expired, but a flood advisory was still in place through the evening, according to the National Weather Service.