It’s known as the hottest place on Earth. But Death Valley is also known for some extreme flash flooding, especially in the last 20 years.
Friday’s flash flood event is the latest chapter in a series of floods that have damaged roads and buildings (and in one case killed visitors) at Death Valley National Park in eastern California.
Let’s take a look back at a few memorable floods.
Scotty’s Castle in the northern part of the park was closed after a downpour washed away the utilities and about eight miles of road and sent water and mud into two historic buildings on the site.
The damage was so severe, and the reconstruction so lengthy, that the famous castle is not expected to open until December, according to the National Park Service.
Although the 90-year-old mansion suffered only minor water damage from a leak in the roof, surrounding buildings and infrastructure were hit hard.
Before the flood, the attraction drew about 120,000 people a year, nearly half of whom took the hourlong tour of the opulent retreat that millionaire Albert Mussey Johnson built in the 1920s.
The same flood temporarily closed two of the park’s paved entrance roads.
Death Valley officials called the October event “the most expensive natural disaster in park history,” with damage in the tens of millions of dollars.
The floor of Death Valley averages less than 2 inches of rain a year, but more than an inch fell in just a few days at the park’s official weather station at Furnace Creek during what turned out to be the wettest October on record there.
The flood at Scotty’s Castle — 55 miles north and 3,000 feet above Furnace Creek — was triggered by more than 3 inches of rain and hail in five hours.
Floods from a July 28 storm washed out a section of Badwater Road. It took a few months to repair it, the only paved road through the southern part of the park.
A storm flooded the canyon east of Furnace Creek, killing two people and destroying a stretch of California state Route 190, the fastest route between Death Valley and Las Vegas. It took eight months and $10 million to reopen the road.
Of course, Death Valley is known for its brain-baking heat. In June 2021, the park hit 128 degrees, breaking the old record of 122 for June 17 set in 1917.
In August 2020, the national park recorded a high of 130, which came close to the all-time record.
The highest air temperature recorded anywhere in the world is 134 degrees at Death Valley’s Greenland Ranch on July 10, 1913, according to the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization, the official keeper and verifier of global climate extremes.
Death Valley National Park provides up-to-date information on road conditions on its website at nps.gov/deva or the park can be followed on Facebook.