Death Valley National Park endured the wettest October on record this year with hard-hitting storms and a weather system that incited a 1,000-year-flood. In other words, there was a 0.1 percent chance of a flood this severe hitting the area, which is used to receiving only four inches of rain each year. Many are worried how the predicted El Niño patterns will affect the area this winter and spring, yet the best guess is: more floods.
The valley’s Grapevine Canyon, which is home to the popular tourist Scotty’s Castle tourist attraction, was hit hard by the storms. Floodwaters raged through the area at 93,000 cubic feet per second, causing great damage to the 1920’s historical site. The area’s infrastructure, however, took the hardest hit. In addition to the visitor center’s sewage system being destroyed, many stretches of highway were broken to bits – even roads designed to withstand severe flooding.
Dana Dierkes, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, reacted to the destruction of Highway 267, stating “It reminds me of the surreal imagery of melting objects in Salvador Dali’s paintings.” The estimated cost of repairing the damaged infrastructure is in the tens of millions of dollars. While El Niño patterns did not cause the freakish flooding conditions – rather, traveling moist air condensing over the area was the cause – the anticipation of its effects leaves Dierkes and other officials concerned about how much more damage is to come.
Images via National Park Service