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Aerial searches conducted after extensive Death Valley flooding

Updated August 7, 2022 - 12:31 pm

Helicopters and Navy aircraft are conducting aerial searches over Death Valley National Park after historic Friday morning rainfall and flooding.

Heavy debris flows kept 1,000 people from getting out of the park right after the storm.

Those stranded after a near-record 1.46 inches of rain were able to head home with the help of law enforcement escorts, spokeswoman Nico Ramirez said in an email Saturday.

The California Highway Patrol flew a H82 helicopter Friday, and the Navy was conducting an overflight with VX31 out of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake on Saturday, the National Park Service said in a news release.

“At this time, there are no reported stranded visitors on park roadways and no reported injuries from this incident,” the release stated.

California Department of Transportation crews will be working through the weekend to clear roads. Workers from CalTrans9 began efforts Friday afternoon and hoped to have Route 190 open within six hours. In a tweet Saturday morning, CalTrans9 said all park roads remained closed and work would continue through the weekend.

A tweet in the afternoon showed massive debris and rock fields covering some roads, but Saturday evening a tweet showed a road pretty much cleared. But the advisory remained that all park roads were closed.

The park’s single-day rainfall record was 1.47 inches on April 15, 1988.

Highway 190 is expected to reopen between Furnace Creek and Pahrump by Tuesday, according to the park service.

In most areas, floodwaters have receded, leaving behind extensive mud and gravel deposits.

Current conditions

— Highway 190: areas of undercutting, complete shoulder loss, and asphalt damage. About 20 palm trees fell into the roadway by the Inn at Furnace Creek. Debris flows in numerous areas, and floodwaters still over the road at Devils Cornfield as of this morning.

— Water damage to the NPS Emergency Operations Center building.

— Residential water lines in Cow Creek were blown out in multiple locations. Some water availability was returned to housing, but offices (including the Emergency Operations Center, maintenance buildings, and residential dorm) remain without water.

— Water damage to park staff residences.

— Badwater Basin Road: Large debris flows.

— North Highway: Asphalt damage.

— Beatty Cutoff/Mud Canyon roads: Major asphalt damage and undercutting.

— Artists Drive: Debris flows.

— Titus Canyon Road: Washouts.

— Emigrant Canyon to Wildrose: Debris on roadway.

— Lower Wildrose Road: damage to roadway.

— 20 Mule Team Canyon Road: Washouts.

— Salt Creek Road: Flooding on roadway.

— Cottonwood/Marble Road: Extensive flooding.

“With the severity and widespread nature of this rainfall it will take time to rebuild and reopen everything, and we appreciate your support and patience as we continue this work,” park superintendent Mike Reynolds said in the release.

“With over 1,000 miles of roadway in the park, and 3.4 million acres, this is not an exhaustive list and it will take time to get a full assessment of the damage,” the release states. “Due to access issues, we do not have updates for many sections of the park, including Scotty’s Castle.”

60 cars buried

At least 60 cars were buried under several feet of debris at the Inn at Death Valley, the park service said.

Many businesses and hotel rooms in and around the park were also flooded.

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

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