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Tourists find safety after floods close Death Valley roads

Hundreds of hotel guests trapped by flash flooding in US’s Death Valley National Park were able to drive out after crews cleared a path through rocks and mud.

However, roads damaged by flood water or clogged with debris are expected to remain closed until next week, officials said.

The National Park Service said Navy and California Highway Patrol helicopters conducted aerial searches for stranded vehicles in remote areas but found none.

It could take days to assess the damage — the park near the California-Nevada state line has more than 1,000 miles of pavement in 3.4 million acres.

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Cars get stuck in mud and debris from flash floods at The Inn at Death Valley in Death Valley National Park, Calif. (National Park Service via AP)

No injuries were reported in Friday’s record-breaking rains. The park survived 1.46 inches of rain in the Furnace Creek area. That’s about 75% of what the area normally gets in a year, and more than has ever been recorded for the entire month of August.

The only day with more rain since 1936 was April 15, 1988, when it fell 1.47 inches, park officials said.

Nikki Jones, a restaurant worker who lives in a hotel with colleagues, said it was raining when she left for breakfast on Friday morning. When she returned, rapidly accumulating water had reached the bedroom door.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Ms Jones said. “I had never seen water so quickly in my life.”

Fearing the water would seep into her ground floor room, Ms Jones and her friends placed their luggage on beds and used towels at the base of the doors to keep water out. For about two hours they wondered if they would be flooded.

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Highway 190 is closed due to flash flooding in Death Valley National Park (National Park Service via AP)

“People around me said they’d never seen anything so bad – and they’ve been working here for a while,” Ms Jones said.

While her room was spared, five or six other rooms in the hotel were flooded. The carpet from these rooms was later torn out.

Most of the rain came in an epic downpour between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Friday, said John Adair, a weather forecaster with the Las Vegas National Weather Service.

The floods “cut off access to and from Death Valley, just washing out roads and producing a lot of debris,” Mr Adair said.

Highway 190 — a major artery through the park — is expected to reopen between Furnace Creek and Pahrump, Nevada, by Tuesday, officials said.

Park employees, also stranded on the closed roads, continued to seek shelter except in emergencies, officials said.

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Cars stuck in mud and debris (National Park Service via AP)

“Whole trees and boulders were washed down,” said John Sirlin, a photographer with 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.

“The noise from some of the rocks coming down the mountain was just amazing,” he said.

In most areas the water has receded, leaving a dense layer of mud and gravel.

About 60 vehicles were partially buried in mud and debris. There were numerous reports of road damage and residential water lines in the park’s Cow Creek area ruptured in several places. About 20 palm trees fell onto the road near an inn, and some staff housing was also damaged.

“Given the severity and widespread nature of this downpour, it will take time to rebuild and reopen,” Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds said in a statement.

The storm followed major flooding in the park 120 miles northeast of Las Vegas earlier 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.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/tourists-find-safety-after-floods-close-death-valley-roads-41894615.html Tourists find safety after floods close Death Valley roads

Linh

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