Hit hard by Hilary, Death Valley National Park may be closed for months

Tropical Storm Hilary caused catastrophic flooding in Death Valley National Park.

Remnants of the storm hit the park between Aug. 19-21. “This included heavy rain, which led to flooding in many areas of the park and a parkwide closure for safety,” the park’s website says.

One casualty: roads, including State Route 190, which is a main corridor in the park. According to The Los Angeles Times, when Hilary came across the park, water quickly moved through it. Portions of the highway are in “crumbles,” and because of the damages to the park, officials said it could take months for the park to reopen.

“There is a lot of damage, and it’s pretty widespread,” Matthew Lamar, a park ranger, told the LA Times. “There’s a lot of pavement loss. It’s definitely going to be a while.”

In a press release two weeks ago, the National Park Service noted “all roads and unpaved roads in Death Valley have been damaged and are closed.” It said the storm caused “pavement loss” and “undercutting of pavement” that “make travel conditions unsafe.”

“Picture the mountains in Death Valley as being a steep building roof,” park ranger Abby Wines said in the release. “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.”

Ahead of Hilary, the National Weather Service issued its first tropical storm watch in California. When the weather hit, it was the first tropical storm to impact the Golden State in 84 years.

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