Flash flooding in Death Valley National Park on Friday closed all roads into the park, buried cars and stranded around 1,000 people.
A deluge brought “almost an entire year of rain in a single morning” to the famously hot and dry California desert park. At least 4.3 cm (1.7 in) of rain fell in the Furnace Creek area; the park’s average annual rainfall is 1.9 in (4.8 cm).
About 60 vehicles were buried in the debris and about 500 visitors and 500 park employees were stranded, park officials said. No injuries were immediately reported, and the California Department of Transportation estimated it would take four to six hours to open a road that would allow park visitors to leave.
It was the second major flood in the park this week. Some roads were closed on Monday after being inundated with mud and debris from flash floods 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 perching on a rock on the hillside where he was trying to take pictures of lightning as the storm approaches.
Video and photos posted by Sirlin on social media showed fast flowing water, toppled palm trees and cars trapped by debris.
“It was more extreme than anything I’ve seen there,” said Sirlin, who lives in Chandler, Ariz., and has been visiting the park since 2016. He’s the lead guide for Incredible Weather Adventures and has said he started chasing storms in Minnesota. and the high plains in the 1990s.
“I’ve never seen it to the point where whole trees and rocks were washed away. The sound of some of the rocks coming down the mountain was just amazing,” he said in a phone interview on Friday. afternoon.
“A lot of the washes were flowing several feet deep. There are probably 3 or 4 foot boulders covering the road,” he said.
Sirlin said it took her about 6 hours to walk about 35 miles (56 kilometers) out of the park from the Death Valley Inn.
“There were at least two dozen cars that were run over and stuck in there,” he said, adding that he saw no one injured “or any rescue on the high seas.”
During Friday’s thunderstorms, “floodwater pushed garbage containers into parked cars, causing the cars to crash into each other. Additionally, many facilities are flooded, including hotel rooms and commercial offices,” the park statement said.
A water supply system that supplies it to park residents and offices also failed after a line that was being repaired broke, the statement said.
A flood advisory remained in effect into the evening, the National Weather Service said.
The Associated Press contributed reporting