Death Valley press release – Visitors Evacuated-Park Still Closed

Death Valley National Park remains closed, all visitors evacuated

DEATH VALLEY, Calif. – Death Valley National Park is still closed due to major flash
flood damage. The park had its rainiest day ever on August 20, receiving more rain than
it normally does in an entire year.

National Park Service (NPS) and Caltrans road crews opened an exit lane on CA-190
by late on August 21. This provided an exit route for the 400 residents, employees, and
travelers that sheltered in place for about 24 hours.

The National Weather Service rain gauge at Furnace Creek measured 2.2 inches of rain
on August 20, 2023. This exceeds the park’s annual average rainfall of 2.15 inches.
This set a new single-day rainfall record for Death Valley, breaking the previous record
of 1.70 inches set on August 5, 2022. The National Weather Service radar indicates
some parts of the park may have received around 5 inches of rain that day. This
unprecedented rainfall was due to the remnants of Hurricane Hilary.

Flash floods form when rainfall exceeds the land’s ability to absorb water. Even small
amounts of rain can cause dangerous flash floods in Death Valley National Park. In
other places, plants stabilize the soil and reduce runoff. In other places, the terrain is
less steep.

Park ranger Abby Wines describes flash floods this way: “Picture the mountains in
Death Valley as being a steep building roof. Just like a roof, the rocky slopes don’t
absorb much water. The canyons function like a rain spout, channeling that runoff.
However, in Death Valley that runoff is a fast-moving muddy soup carrying rocks.”
All paved and unpaved roads in Death Valley have been damaged and are closed.
Undercutting of pavement and pavement loss make travel conditions unsafe.
Additionally four utility systems were compromised by debris that moved during theflash flooding, dislodging water and wastewater pipes and impacting a well. The full
extent of the damage across the park will not be known for a period of weeks, as roads
make overland travel challenging in order for park crews to identify additional storm
damage impacts, however aerial surveys indicated extensive parkwide flooding impacts.

Park officials say the park will likely reopen in stages. It may be weeks before Furnace
Creek and Stovepipe Wells open. Secondary roads in the park may take months to
open. Utility systems also need to be stabilized prior to reopening.

“Safety is the most important thing coming out of this storm. Making sure crews can
work safely and efficiently without interruptions from visitor traffic will help us achieve
that” said Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “We ask the public for patience and to honor
the closures so we can do the work needed to get Death Valley open as quickly as
possible and safe for everyone to visit.”

Video and more images are posted here: Hurricane Hilary in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is the homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone and preserves
natural resources, cultural resources, exceptional wilderness, scenery, and learning
experiences within the nation’s largest conserved desert landscape and some of the
most extreme climate and topographic conditions on the planet. Learn more at