Rainfall on record Flash floods hit Death Valley National Park on Friday. They washed away cars, shut down all roads, and left hundreds of visitors and workers stranded.
No injuries were reported right away, but officials said that about 60 vehicles were buried in mud and debris and that about 500 visitors and 500 park workers were stuck inside.
At the Furnace Creek area of the park near the state line between California and Nevada, 1.46 inches of rain fell. That's about 75% of what the area usually gets in a year and more than has ever been recorded for the whole month of August.
Park officials say that since 1936, the only day with more rain was April 15, 1988, when 1.47 inches fell.
"Whole trees and boulders were washing down," said John Sirlin, a photographer for an adventure company in Arizona. He saw the flooding while standing on a boulder on a hillside to take pictures of lightning as a storm was coming.
In a phone interview Friday afternoon, he said, "The noise from some of the rocks coming down the mountain was just crazy."
Friday night, people asked park officials for an update, but they didn't answer right away.
This week, the park, which is 120 miles (193 kilometers) northeast of Las Vegas, had another big flood before the storm. Monday, some roads were closed because they were full of mud and trash from flash floods that also hit hard in western Nevada and northern Arizona.
Sirlin, who lives in Chandler, Arizona, and has been going to the park since 2016, said that the rain started around 2 a.m. on Friday.
"It was worse than anything I've seen there," said Sirlin, who has been chasing storms in Minnesota and the high plains since the 1990s. He is the lead guide for Incredible Weather Adventures.
“A lot of washes were flowing several feet deep. There are rocks probably 3 or 4 feet covering the road,” he said.
Sirlin said it took him about 6 hours to drive about 35 miles out of the park from near the Inn at Death Valley.
“There were at least two dozen cars that got smashed and stuck in there,” he said, adding that he didn’t see anyone injured “or any high water rescues.”
When it rained on Friday, the flood waters pushed trash cans into parked cars, which caused cars to crash into each other. "Many facilities, like hotel rooms and business offices, are also flooded," the park said in a statement.
The water system for park residents and offices also stopped working after a broken line that was being fixed. This was said in the statement.
The National Weather Service said that a flash flood warning for the park and the area around it ended at 12:45 p.m. Friday, but a flood advisory was still in effect until the evening.