Record Flooding in Death Valley National Park Strands 1,000 People

Cars at the Inn at Death Valley immobilized by debris following rain storms
Cars at the Inn at Death Valley immobilized by debris following rain storms. National Park Service
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Typically dry Death Valley National Park was hit with a record amount of rain over the weekend, which triggered flash floods, stranding park employees and visitors as all roads were forced to close and vehicles were washed away.

The inch and a half of rain that fell in the 3.4 million acre park this weekend represents about 75% of the park’s typical total of 2 inches per year. The flood is the latest in a series of abnormally heavy rain events in the U.S.

Over the week spanning the end of July and beginning of August, three 1-in-1,000 year rain events occurred — in St. Louis, Kentucky, and Illinois. The number of record-breaking extreme precipitation events globally has significantly increased in recent decades, and scientists have documented the fingerprint of global warming in this pattern.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

Death Valley has averaged about 1.96 inches of precipitation per year since record keeping began in 1911, according to the Western Regional Climate Center. Nearly 75% of that amount fell in the space of a few hours on Friday.

Videos posted to social media showed roads turned to rushing rivers that uprooted trees, overturned boulders and flooded park facilities. Dumpsters careened into parked cars, and cars collided with one another, the National Park Service said. At one point, about 1,000 residents and visitors were trapped in the park due to the rising waters and debris, according to officials.

For a deeper dive:

AP, CNN, Axios, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Climate Signals: Extreme precipitation

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