Major rainfall brought on by Tropical Storm Kay closed roads and caused heavy damage in Death Valley National Park on Saturday, the National Park Service said in a statement. The flooding was so significant that waterfalls cascaded down the usually dry hills of Death Valley.
In a news release, the service said California Highway 190 is closed from the CA-136 junction to Stovepipe Wells Village. Badwater Road closed completely, and several other park roads remain closed from floods five weeks ago.
The flooding across Badwater Road was concentrated from Natural Bridge to Badwater Basin, mileposts 10 to 16, the release said.
Park rangers were warned about the storm’s path about an hour in advance by the National Weather Service. Rangers warned park visitors to immediately leave the area. One recreational vehicle was unable to leave until the National Park Service road crew cleared a single traffic lane Sunday morning, the release said.
About 40 vehicles were blocked by active flooding on CA-190 west of Towne Pass on Saturday, the park service said. At the same time, a tour bus got stuck in soft sand while trying to turn around. The bus blocked both lanes of CA-190 for about an hour, east of Stovepipe Wells. Most vehicles were able to get around the bus on the shoulder, but a semi-truck and an RV were blocked for hours.
CA-190 has at least one section of missing pavement spreading across both lanes on the west side of Towne Pass. There was no immediate word on when the road segment will reopen.
Historic Rains Hit Death Valley
Death Valley is thought to be the hottest place on Earth. It currently holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded at 134 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Death Valley receives a mere 2.2 inches of rainfall annually on average. However, just in August, it received three-quarters of that amount in just a few hours. With even more rain falling in September as a result of Kay.
Hurricane Kay was the closest a hurricane from the Pacific to nearly make landfall in California for more than 50 years, according to Accuweather. But Kay was downgraded to a tropical storm just before it hit Southern California.
The unprecedented storm may come as a result of the intense heat wave that scorched most of California last week. The heat waves led to electrical shortages and wildfires across the state.
“Our ocean water comes down from Alaska,” Pat Abbott, a geology professor at San Diego State University, told Accuweather. “That cold water drains the energy out of these tropical storms and hurricanes. Right now, we’ve just gone through an extended heat wave so we have ocean temperatures out here around 80 degrees, so that provides some energy that allows these tropical storms to come further north.”