As of Saturday morning, “everything is going well,” said Nikki Jones, a server assistant at a restaurant at the park’s Ranch Inn, who also lives there and posted a video of the flood from her colleague on Twitter. Jones told The Washington Post that the floodwaters receded Friday afternoon, but light debris remains on the roads.
“CalTrans has done a great job getting this cleaned up as quickly as possible,” she told The Post in a Twitter message. “I drove on the roads today.”
Jones said some people are stranded at the Inn at the Oasis because of stuck cars, “but people are able to get out of the park today.”
“Flood waters pushed containers into parked cars, causing 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 business offices.
The NPS did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for an update Saturday morning.
The flow was triggered by the southwest monsoon, which develops each summer as the prevailing winds shift from west to south, pulling a wave of moisture northward. This moisture can fuel heavy downpours that flood the parched desert landscape. Because there is little soil to soak up the rain, any measurable rain can cause flooding in low-lying areas, and heavier rains can collect in normally dry creeks and trigger flash floods.
This year’s southwest monsoon has been particularly intense – helping to alleviate drought conditions in the region, but also resulting in many significant floods. Severe flooding has recently affected areas around Las Vegas and Phoenix.
The Death Valley flooding also comes amid a series of extreme rain events across the lower 48 states. During the week spanning late July and early August, three 1-in-1,000-year rain events occurred—flooding St. Louis, Eastern Kentuckyand southeastern Illinois. Earlier in the summer Yellowstone National Park also flooded.
Death Valley holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth, as well as several runners-up. Officially, Death Valley reached 134 degrees on July 10, 1913, but some climatologists have questioned the legitimacy of that reading. The second highest temperature ever recorded, 131 degrees from Kebili, Tunisia, set on July 7, 1931, is also controversial. Last summer and the summer before, Death Valley hit 130 degrees, which may be it highest pair of reliably measured temperatures on Earth if the 1931 Tunisia and 1913 Death Valley readings are disregarded.
The rain flooded the park and trapped 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 that visitors struggled for six hours to leave the park.
Earlier this week, flooding hit parts of western Nevada, forcing the closure of some roads leading to the park from Las Vegas. Flooding also hit parts of northern Arizona.
Sirlin told the Associated Press that Friday’s rain began around 2 a.m. and was “more extreme than anything I’ve seen there.”
“There were at least two dozen cars that were smashed and stuck in there,” he said, adding that he saw washes floating several feet deep, though he saw no injuries, and the NPS reported no injuries as of Friday.
Last July, rare summer rain also drenched Death Valley, bringing 0.74 inches in one day at Furnace Creek about two weeks after the park set the world record for hottest daily average temperature at 118.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scientists say human-induced climate warming is intensifying extreme rainfall events. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found some evidence that rainfall from the southwest monsoon has increased since the 1970s.