Death Valley to reopen after floods; Joshua Tree and Mojave Park are still repairing the damage

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Death Valley National Park prepares to reopen its most popular destinations after heavy flooding on Saturday, with California’s national parks still grappling with its aftermath.

After heavy rains, there was sudden flood in the mountains and deserts of the state, Death Valley forced to close all roads In the park on August 5. A historic tornado wreaked havoc on the park, damaging 60 vehicles and closing after nearly 500 visitors and another 500 staff members were trapped.

“It was a 1,000-year flood event. It is possibly the most widespread catastrophic event in the history of this park,” said Anna Cholo, a spokeswoman for Death Valley National Park. The paved roadway was also affected by debris, shoulder road damage, undercutting and pavement damage.”

On Monday, the US Department of Transportation provided $11.7 million in emergency relief funds to the park to repair flood damage.

Cholo said workers are able to assess 600 miles of roads, and 200 miles considered impassable. There are still another 800 miles of road to be assessed.

Cholo said flood rescue efforts in the park were not over yet. Of the park’s 3.4 million acres—93% of which are designated as wilderness—only 42% of roadways are currently assessed. Cholo said the park’s roads could remain closed for weeks and months, depending on the severity of the damage.

Sites open Saturday include Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Golden Canyon, Artist Drive, Devils Golf Course, Natural Bridge, Zabriskie Point, Dantes View, Mesquite Sand Dunes, Twenty Mule Canyon, and Harmony Borax Works.

Badwater Basin will also reopen, but it will only be accessible from State Route 190 and will stop at Mile Marker 17, Cholo said. State Route 190 was scheduled to reopen on Wednesday, but was postponed until Saturday after officials said the road was not ready.

Cholo also warns that many park roads will remain closed, so visitors should plan ahead and not rely on navigation tools or GPS.

Joshua Tree National Park was also hit by heavy rains on Tuesday that concentrated in the southern region. As of Wednesday morning, Pinto Basin Road from Ocotillo to the south border, the Geology Tour Road from North Gate to Burdu Canyon and the Big Horn Pass complex are all closed. It is unclear when the park plans to reopen these sites.

The south side of Joshua Tree was first evacuated, and the roads were closed when floods hit on August 8.

According to a news release, all facilities in the northern side of the park are open.

The park warns visitors to drive carefully to avoid debris in the roadways. The park also notes that during the wet season, turtles are more likely to emerge and may appear like rocks in the street. Visitors are urged to drive slowly and help protect the union’s threatened species.

Mojave National Preserve is also battling with continuous monsoon in the region. In late July all paved roads in the preserve were closed for almost two weeks due to flood damage.

According to a news release, at present, North Kelbecker Road is closed due to a severe washout and it will probably take months to recover. Zzyzx Road, which leads to the California State Desert Studies Center, is still closed due to severe pavement erosion, a news release said.

Roads that have reopened in the Mojave still have flood marks, including debris overflows, steep shoulder falls and pavement erosion. Because of this, driving in the protected area is still dangerous, the news release said.

rainy season It typically runs from mid-July to mid-September, according to Dan Burke, a warning coordinating meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Las Vegas, who monitors weather in the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks. Although floods caused by the monsoon season are not unprecedented, it is “certainly historic and rare,” he said.

“Over the years, we’ve had very dry monsoon seasons, but this year, we’ve had a lot of moisture there and a lot of fuel for thunderstorms,” ​​Burke said. “Any thunderstorms that do form are very efficient rain showers because they can actually bring a lot of rain out of the atmosphere, especially when we’ve got so much moisture.”

He notes that thunderstorms over national parks are particularly dangerous because they can cause a lot of rain in a short period of time, leading to flooding.

Burke said there is a chance of some thunderstorms in the area over the next few days, but no major flooding is expected. He said he expects dry conditions to begin early next week. No flash flood warnings or clocks are in effect.

“There will be different storms [Thursday] It could cause some heavy rain and maybe even a little bit of flooding, but it wouldn’t be widespread and certainly wouldn’t happen when Death Valley was flooded,” Burke said.

Burke said that since there is still monsoon season for about a month, there could be another resurgence that leads to flooding. However, that level of flooding is not expected in the short term, he said.

Cholo said the location of Death Valley is prone to summer rains and flash floods. She says she will continue to make safety a priority.

“Every so often, events happen that are big enough to break a season’s record, like this one,” Cholo said. “Safety is our top concern, and will be addressed with such flash flood events and monsoon storms in mind. Our top priority is to provide the safety of all incident responders, park staff and visitors.”

Death Valley should expect temperatures in the mid-110s throughout the week, which is typical for this time of year. Joshua Tree has been seeing low temperatures since the mid-90s, which are also normal.

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