Floods Trap Death Valley Visitors, Rangers in Crater

Visitor center, roads closed.
Death Valley

Clouds linger over Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley, where the visitors and rangers were trapped. (Jon S. Canada/Flickr)

Severe thunderstorms caused flash floods Sunday through Death Valley National Park in California that trapped visitors and rangers in a volcanic crater overnight.

The storms knocked down power lines, damaged a road and left the visitor center covered in two feet of mud.

Park spokeswoman Abby Wines said officials thought thunderstorms were possible but didn’t expect weather of that magnitude, which was due to the combination of a low-pressure system from northern Mexico and a second low-pressure system from the north.

About 20 visitors and three park rangers were trapped in Ubehebe Crater overnight, staying in contact with park headquarters. They had been forced to evacuate Mesquite Campground around 10 p.m. Sunday when the downpour began, and were able to safely exit the crater Monday morning.

The visitor center that was damaged will be closed for several days.

Superintendent Mike Reynolds also said many of the park’s roads will be closed due to the heavy rains over the past couple weeks—1.23 inches in October thus far, which far exceeds the average of 0.07, according to the National Weather Service.