2 Inches of Rain Shutters Death Valley for Weeks

Heavy rainfall, flooding from Hurricane Hilary has caused 'extensive damage' in super-dry park
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2023 9:05 AM CDT
Our Driest National Park Closed Because It Got Too Wet
Stock photo of Death Valley.   (Getty Images/Meinzahn)

The hottest place on the planet has been shut down for weeks, but not because of the excessive heat. Instead, Death Valley National Park, the driest national park in the nation, has been closed off to visitors after receiving more rain in one day last month than the park typically receives all year, reports CNN. Per a National Park Service release, heavy rainfall from Hurricane Hilary dumped 2.2 inches of water on the Furnace Creek part of Death Valley on Aug. 20, making it the wettest day ever recorded there.

For context, the park usually receives an average of 2.15 inches of rain total for the year. When the rain poured down that August weekend, it wreaked havoc on the arid landscape, which isn't accustomed to being touched by water, and "led to flooding in many areas of the park," per the release, which added: "Extensive damage including undercutting and pavement loss has been found on major roads in the park and many roads are covered with debris." Per the Los Angeles Times, hundreds of visitors, workers, and locals ended up temporarily trapped in the park after the storm as floodwaters rushed over the roads.

The NPS tried to explain why the heavy rain was so devastating to the super-dry region, even if it was just a couple of inches. "This rain has even more of an impact because the ground here doesn't absorb water like a grassy yard might," officials wrote online on Monday. "Where rich soils tend to soak up water from even heavy rains, Death Valley's rocky soils and steep mountains shed water and send it downhill ... quickly."

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Last week, the Hill noted that the park may be shut down "for months," but on Wednesday, park officials seemed optimistic on seeing an opening sooner rather than later, per KLAS. "The news we all have been waiting to hear," the NPS wrote on Facebook. "October 15th is our target date to provide access from the west side of the park through Lone Pine, California." Nevada's entrances to the park will stay closed for the time being during the tentative Oct. 15 reopening. (Death Valley was busily nearing other records this summer.)

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