The Death Valley national park closed all roads, buried cars and stranded about 1,000 people on Friday.
A deluge brought nearly an entire year worth of rain into the famously hot and dry park in the California desert. In the Furnace Creek area, at least 1.7 in 4.3 cm of rain fell, the park's average annual rainfall is 1.9 in 4.8 cm. About 60 vehicles were buried in debris and about 500 visitors and 500 park workers were stranded, park officials said. There were no immediate reports of injuries and the California transportation department said it would take four to six hours to open a road that would allow park visitors to leave.
It was the second major flooding event at the park this week. Some roads were closed on Monday after they were inundated with mud and debris from flash floods that also hit western Nevada and northern Arizona hard.
The rain started around 2 a.m., said John Sirlin, a photographer for an Arizona-based adventure company who witnessed the flooding as he perched on a hillside boulder where he was trying to take pictures of the lightning as the storm approached.
Sirlin posted a video and photos on social media showing fast flowing water, toppled palm trees and cars trapped by debris.
Sirlin, who lives in Chandler, Arizona, said it was more extreme than anything I've seen there. He is the lead guide for Incredible Weather Adventures and said he started chasing storms in the 1990s in Minnesota and the high plains.
I've never seen it to the point where entire trees and boulders were washing down. He said the noise from some rocks coming down the mountain was incredible.
A lot of washes were several feet deep. There are probably 3 or 4 feet of rocks covering the road, he said.
Sirlin took about 6 hours to drive about 35 miles 56 kilometers out of the park from near the Inn at Death Valley.
He said there were at least two dozen cars that got smashed and stuck in there, and he didn't see anyone injured or high water rescues. During Friday s rainstorms, the flood waters pushed dumpster containers into parked cars, which caused cars to collide into each other. The park statement said that many facilities are flooded, including hotel rooms and business offices.
A water system that provides it for park residents and offices failed after a line broke that was being repaired, the statement said.
The National Weather Service said a flood advisory remained in effect until the evening.