Record Death Valley National Park Flooding Leaves Over 1,000 Stranded

by Jon D. B.

Death Valley National Park‘s catastrophic flooding either destroyed or closed all roads, leaving hundreds stranded inside the park.

It’s been a horrific year for flooding. As multiple states contend with entire communities destroyed and many lives lost, U.S. National Parks continue to be battered by historic flood events. The latest comes in Death Valley National Park twice over. Record rainfall on Friday, August 5, 2022, caused further severe flash flooding in the California & Nevada park.

Currently, Death Valley and state officials are working to clear Highway 190 east of the park in order to open a mass evacuation route. Thankfully, no immediate reports of injuries or casualties have come to light. But there are over 500 visitors and 500 park workers currently stranded inside Death Valley, park officials state Saturday.

Dozens of vehicles are trapped in mud, and just as many have been swept away or swallowed by raging waters. A freak storm brought 1.46 inches of rain to the park’s Furnace Creek area, which is equal to 3/4 of the rain the park gets in an entire year – all dumped in an hour’s time. Nothing close to this amount of rainfall has ever been recorded for an entire August of any year, let alone a single day.

Death Valley officials note that only one day in the national park’s history has brought more rain, and that was April 15, 1988’s 1.47 inches of rainfall.

“Entire trees and boulders were washing down,” a local photographer and storm chaser, John Sirlin, told the NY Post in the aftermath. “The noise from some of the rocks coming down the mountain was just incredible,” he says, as is the footage he managed to capture while stranded in the flooding (above).

Death Valley National Park Flooding: ‘It was more extreme than anything I’ve seen there’

This is the second flood event to hit the park in less than a week’s time. Several roads closed Monday, Aug. 1 after flash flooding swept across the park’s area alongside Nevada and northern Arizona.

Sirlin, who leads Incredible Weather Adventures and has been photographing storms since the 1990s, says this flood event was unprecedented. “It was more extreme than anything I’ve seen there… A lot of washes were flowing several feet deep. There are rocks probably 3 or 4 feet covering the road.”

“There were at least two dozen cars that got smashed and stuck in there,” Sirlin adds. Thankfully, he didn’t spot any injuries “or any high water rescues” as he finally left the park. It took him 6 hours to drive 35 miles through the debris.

“The flood waters pushed dumpster containers into parked cars, which caused cars to collide into one another. Additionally, many facilities are flooded including hotel rooms and business offices,” Death Valley National Park cites in their press release. “The park is working closely with its partners at the California Department of Transportation, and state and county emergency services on assessing the situation and damage.”

For more current updates on alerts and conditions in the park, please visit their NPS Conditions site here.