Devastating rain at Death Valley and flooded Vegas casinos symbolizes the heat of extreme weather

Photographer John Sirlin was shooting an expected thunderstorm in a canyon in the northeastern part of Death Valley National Park late Thursday night.

Then the lightning struck and the storm became an unstoppable torrential downpour that lasted for hours, bringing record rain in one of the hottest, driest places on Earth.

“It looked grim,” said the 46-year-old from Chandler, Ariz., who also leads storm-chasing workshops. “It was the magnitude of the flood that I had not experienced before.”

More analysis will be needed to determine whether climate change has helped drive hurricane intensity. But its extreme nature is in line with what is expected as global temperatures rise, experts said, paralleling historical flood Which damaged Yellowstone National Park in June.

“We are already in an environment where the likelihood of intense rainfall increases,” said climate scientist Noah Dieffenbaugh, Stanford University professor and senior fellow. “And we have a clear understanding that as global warming continues, heavy rainfall events are likely to intensify overall.”

Rainfall total 1.46 inches Recorded at Furnace Creek Visitors Center National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Planz in Las Vegas said Friday, surpassing the August 5 record of 1.10 inches set in 1936, but just short of the park’s heaviest rainfall of 1.47 inches on April 15, 1988. fell down.

Death Valley has received an average of about 1.96 inches of rainfall per year since record-keeping began in 1911, According to Western Regional Climate Center. About 75% of that amount fell in the span of a few hours on Friday.

Videos posted on social media showed roads turning into flowing rivers, uprooting trees, overturning boulders and flooding park facilities. The National Park Service said dumpsters ran into parked cars, and the cars collided with each other. According to officials, at one point, about 1,000 residents and visitors were trapped in the park due to rising water and debris.

“Where it got really crazy was between 4 and 4:30,” Sirlin said. “We went from running a little water through dips and washes, the water got a few inches deep, suddenly you could hear the sound of rocks and boulders.”

Traveling with his corgi, Aspen, he turned to Badwater Road near Highway 190 and waited for her in his car there.

“I knew from experiencing past monsoon-type floods that stuff could get crazy in a hurry, so I decided to go to higher ground,” he said.

After sunrise, he started driving towards the eastern entrance of the park, and stopped to remove stones and branches from the road. Sometimes, they had to use flat rocks to build bridges over washed-out stretches of road, he said, and estimated that the 35-mile journey took about six or seven hours.

“Floods occurred at different times in different areas of the park. You can be free from one area and another wash will be underway and you have to wait 15 minutes,” he said.

National Park Service incident information specialist Janet Jurado said that by Saturday afternoon, most visitors had been able to leave the park. Law enforcement escorts helped her avoid many places where sidewalks were cut, with asphalt hanging over unsupported areas at risk of falling, she said. US Navy and California Highway Patrol helicopters were conducting aerial searches to make sure there were no more stranded vehicles. No casualties were reported, but some roads suffered extensive damage.

“You can just make a blanket statement that every street leading into the park has been swept away by debris,” Jurado said. “Sometimes the debris is light, only a few inches deep, and in other areas it’s a foot deep.”

Summer storms in Death Valley are usually more localized, closing a road or two and perhaps causing an alluvial fan to flood, Jurado called Friday’s rain “extraordinarily rare.” The last time the park received such widespread rain was in 2015, when A powerful weather system dropped nearly 3 inches of rain in five hours, triggered a 1,000-year flood event that battered historic structures. Scotty’s Palace, a Spanish-style mansion that used to offer guided tours, was severely damaged and has since been closed to the public.

“It seems like every time we get rain here in Death Valley, it rocks. So that in itself was no surprise,” Jurado said. “But just being so widespread and having this amount of rain is definitely a big deal for us.” He said this one storm brought more rain than any other August in recorded park history.

Although the rain was higher than normal, such storms are not uncommon for Death Valley at this time of year, when the monsoon often brings moisture from Mexico, Planz said. He attributed the storm to a combination of monsoon moisture and an inverted trough moving southwest that provided energy.

“All the right ingredients came together,” he said.

Now that the Earth has warmed by 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the likelihood increases that when the factors causing intense storms align, their impact will be even greater, Dieffenbaugh said.

“What we are seeing with persistent climate change is that when the well-understood conditions to produce intense rainfall come together, the fact remains that there is more moisture in the atmosphere as a result of prolonged warming. That means those conditions are primed to generate more intense rainfall,” he said.

While this may seem counterintuitive, he said, the same dynamic – often described as an increased thirst for the atmosphere – is also contributing. historical droughtMore intense, persistent heat waves and fast extreme wildfire behavior which surrounded the western United States.

“While it may seem paradoxical that we are simultaneously getting both extremely hot and dry and extremely wet in the region, this is very consistent with the baseline climate dynamics of the region and the many ways in which global warming is increasing. The potential for extreme events , “They said.

Friday’s storm marked the second time flash floods hit Death Valley in a week, with some roads inundated during the storm on Sunday. a sudden flood Parts of the Mojave National Preserve washed awayMost of the paved roads in the park are closed till Saturday. And at the end of last month, Heavy Monsoon Rain Fills Las VegasSending cascading water to the casino.

Death Valley officials said it would take time to assess the extent of the damage to the park’s 3.4 million acres, which include 1,000 miles of roads.

According to officials, there was water damage to the Park Service Emergency Operations Center building and employees’ homes, and some of them remained without water service as water lines at Cow Creek blew in several places.

Highway 190, the park’s main east-west road, was flooded in some areas and blocked by debris flows in others. About 20 palm trees were felled across the road by the inn at Furnace Creek; The highway’s shoulder was destroyed and its asphalt was damaged. California Department of Transportation personnel were working round-the-clock to restore access and hope to be able to partially reopen the road by Tuesday.

Debris flows were reported elsewhere in the park, including Badwater Basin Road and Artist Drive. Jurado said that as with other roads, storm water removed the asphalt, which would need filling and new pavement.

“In some areas where the pavement has been completely removed, it is going to take some time to rebuild it,” she said. “I can’t predict whether it’s weeks or months, but there’s definitely going to be some long-term repairs.”

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