Aug 6, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Death Valley flooding traps at least 1,000 in California national park

A flooded road at Death Valley National Park.
A flooded area at Death Valley National Park. Photo: Death Valley National Park, National Park Service

A Southwest monsoon has brought historic flash flooding to California, trapping thousands in Death Valley National Park on Friday.

Driving the news: At least 1,000 people who were stuck in Death Valley National Park from historic flash flooding made it out of the park, with many more planning to leave Saturday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

  • All roads are currently closed in the national park, the park said Friday. No injuries or fatalities were reported as of Saturday morning.
  • Park spokeswoman Abby Wine told the Review-Journal said most of the people who are trapped — 500 staffers and 500 visitors — are lodging in Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells.
  • About 60 vehicles were damaged, the Los Angeles Times reports.

What happened: The park was hit with 1.46 inches of rain, measured at Furnace Creek, which caused the flash flooding, per the LA Times.

  • This represents about 75% of the park's annual total; it gets about 2 inches of rain per year on average.
  • The deluge was just shy of the park's record rainfall for a single day: 1.47 inches.

Of note: Death Valley is known globally for being where the highest temperature on Earth was recorded.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Andrew Freedman: The heavy rains and flash flooding are related to an active Southwest Monsoon season that is bringing welcome but hazardous downpours to parts of California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.

  • While this is helping with drought relief for some, the extreme rainfall falling in such a short period of time in desert areas is an ideal recipe for flash flooding since the ground cannot absorb the water so quickly.
  • Though the monsoon has been anemic in the past couple of years, flash flooding here and in other parts of the Southwest is common in active years.
Go deeper