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Everybody safe after Death Valley flooding; repairs likely to take months

Updated August 7, 2022 - 5:30 pm

No fatalities, injuries or missing people have resulted from the historic flooding Friday morning at Death Valley National Park.

Several vehicles in remote areas of the 3.4-million-acre park were spotted in aerial surveys conducted Saturday by a helicopter from Naval Weapons Station China Lake, according to a National Park Service news release. Rangers were able to contact these visitors and ensure that everyone was OK.

Road crews have been working since Friday afternoon to clear California Route 190 that links Pahrump and the park’s major residential and operational area at Cow Creek. The road is expected to be open by Tuesday, according to the California Department of Transportation.

Opening 190 will allow access to the visitor center at Furnace Creek, as well as private hotels.

All roads in the park remain closed. With some roads incurring heavy damage and others with lesser damage, it will be days to months before they are repaired.

“Several miles of roadway have moderate to severe asphalt damage with hundreds of miles battered by debris,” stated the news release.

Furnace Creek received 1.46 inches of rain on Friday, most of it in a three-hour period, said the Las Vegas office of the National Weather Service. The record for that location is 1.47 inches in 1988. The park normally gets about 1.9 inches of rain a year.

“The heavy rain that caused the devastating flooding at Death Valley was an extremely rare, 1,000-year event, said Daniel Berc, weather service meteorologist in Las Vegas. “A 1,000-year event doesn’t mean it happens once per 1,000 years, rather that there is a 0.1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.”

Major damage from the storm includes the loss of a critical portion of the Cow Creek water system that serves some park residences as well as park facilities including the Emergency Operations Building and maintenance yard.

More than 600 feet of the water main was blown out by flash floods, causing catastrophic damage to this system.

“Death Valley is an incredible place of extremes,” park superintendent Mike Reynolds stated in the release. “It is the hottest place in the world, and the driest place in North America. This week’s 1,000 year flood is another example of this extreme environment. With climate change models predicting more frequent and more intense storms, this is a place where you can see climate change in action.”

Contact Marvin Clemons at mclemons@reviewjournal.com. Follow @Marv_in_Vegas on Twitter.

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