Officials of the Death Valley National Park revealed that many of the almost 1,000 people trapped by flooding at the park have left. On Friday, August 5, a high level of rainfall caused significant flooding at the park, and wind brought debris that buried up to 60 cars owned by staff and visitors to the park, CNN reports.
Officials said there were about 500 visitors and 500 staff at the park on Friday when the rainfall occurred. The California Department of Transportation initially reported that all roads to the park were damaged and blocked and that no one could leave; but by Saturday, officials said some people had left because they were allowed to leave if they wanted.
Park officials said Highway 190 and other damaged roads accessing and exiting the park were closed to enable staff to evaluate the extent of the damage. They said it would take up to six hours to repair some roads and clear the overwhelming debris that covered most cars at The Inn part of the park. The Cow Creek water system which supplies the park was impacted, and many users could not use potable water.
The public relations officer for Death Valley National Park, Abby Wines, said visitors were told on Saturday that they could leave if they wanted – especially if they could find a way to exit safely. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said 70% of the rainfall that occurs at the national park fell on Friday, and that amounted to more than 1,300% of the average August rain.
Javaheri said the national park began keeping records of rainfall in 1911 and that in the last 61 years, the annual rainfall at the valley did not reach the 1.46 inches of rain recorded on Friday; between 1911 and 1961, the highest rainfall recorded at the park was 1.47 inches. He added that in 2022, the amount of rainfall was 0.04 inches, the driest since 1953 when no rains fell at all.
Park officials said staff are working to clean up Highway 190 and other closed roads that access the park.