Flash floods strand 1K people in Death Valley National Park

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) - Flash flooding in Death Valley National Park, triggered by heavy rains on Friday, buried cars, forced officials to close all roads in and out of the park and stranded about 1,000 people, officials said
The park near the California-Nevada state line received at least 1.7 inches (4.3 centimeters) of rain in the Furnace Creek area, which park officials said in a statement represented "almost a full year of rain in one morning." The park's average annual rainfall is 1.9 inches (4.8 centimeters).
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About 60 vehicles were buried in rubble and about 500 visitors and 500 park employees were stranded, park officials said. There were no immediate reports of injuries, and the California Department of Transportation estimated it would take four to six hours to open a road that would allow visitors to exit the park.
It was the second major flood event in the park this week. Some roads were closed Monday after being inundated with mud and debris from flash floods that also hit western Nevada and northern Arizona hard.
The rain started around 2 a.m., said John Sirlin, a photographer for an Arizona-based adventure company who witnessed the flooding as he sat on a boulder on the hillside and tried to photograph lightning as the storm approached.
"It was more extreme than anything I saw there," said Sirlin, who lives in Chandler, Arizona and has been visiting the park since 2016. He is the lead guide for Incredible Weather Adventures and says he started chasing storms in Minnesota and the high plains in the 1990's.
"I've never seen it so far that entire trees and boulders were washed down. The noise from some of the rocks coming down the mountain was just amazing," he said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
“Many washes flowed several feet deep. There are rocks that probably cover the road 3 or 4 feet,” he said.
Sirlin said it took him about 6 hours to drive about 35 miles (56 kilometers) out of the park near the Inn at Death Valley.
"There were at least two dozen cars that were smashed and stuck there," he said, adding that he didn't see any casualties "or flood rescues."
During Friday's rainstorms, "flood water pushed dumpsters into parked cars, causing cars to collide with each other. Also, many facilities will be flooded, including hotel rooms and business offices," the park's statement said.
A water system it provides to park residents and offices also failed after a line burst, which has been repaired, the statement said.
A flash flood warning for the park and the surrounding area expired at 12:45 p.m. Friday, but a flood warning remained in effect through the evening, the National Weather Service said.

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