Authorities evacuated 150 people after they were stranded at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. According to park officials at the Caverns, people safely exited the area just before midnight on Saturday.
Earlier that day, flash flooding in the national park caused park rangers to issue a shelter-in-place for several hours at their visitor’s center. A park ranger later told news outlets that the Caverns would be evacuated as soon as officials gave the order.
That same afternoon, park rangers tried evacuating the heavily-visited area on Saturday afternoon due to heavy showers. However, State Road 7, a busy road near the park, was inaccessible. As a result, rangers issued a shelter-in-place order for tourists.
Albuquerque residents Robert and Stephanie Saavedra had to think quickly as they visited the park with their three small children. Within moments, they found themselves stranded with the other terrified visitors.
According to Stephanie, they were nearly done with the tour when park officials gave the evacuation order. They then made a 20-minute trek back out to the visitor center building. Once out of the cave, the family discovered they couldn’t use the road. In addition, she was irritated that rangers didn’t have backup food and water for the visitors as they waited hours to leave.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park evacuated: tourists slam park officials for not providing water, food
“We’ve been asking about food and water, since we have three small kids,” Stephanie said. “They don’t even know about food and water for us. We’re just walking around and waiting.”
However, the family told reporters that while the staff gave them food, they had to pay for it. They also said the caverns ran out of food, so some people had no options if they were hungry.
Before the incident, the area had received several inches of rain beginning Friday, with the National Weather Service predicting more precipitation through next week. Later, a torrential downpour brought along at least 2 inches of rain, which led weather officials to issue flash flood warnings for most of the county.
Thankfully, the National Park Service reported no injuries or deaths after the incident.
In a June 2022 report, the National Park Service reported that nearly 350,000 visitors went to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in 2021 and spent $25.1 million in communities near the park. As a result, that spending supported 312 jobs in the area and benefitted the local economy by $27.4 million.
“National parks are a vital part of our nation’s economy, especially for park gateway communities where millions of visitors each year find a place to sleep and eat and make use of other local services that help drive a vibrant tourism industry,” said Superintendent Carmen Chapin.
“At Carlsbad Caverns National Park, we are excited to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers.”