Hundreds of hotel guests trapped in flash floods in the US’s Death Valley National Park managed to escape after the crew cleared the way through rocks and mud.
Officials said roads damaged by flood waters or roads filled with rubble are likely to remain closed till next week.
The National Park Service said the Navy and California Highway Patrol helicopters were conducting an aerial search of the stranded vehicles, but found none.
It may take a few days to assess the damage—the park near the California-Nevada state line has more than 1,000 miles of roadway across 3.4 million acres.
There was no report of any casualty due to the record breaking rain on Friday. The park in the Furnace Creek area received 1.46 inches of rain. This is about 75% of the area that is usually received in a year, and more has been recorded than in the entire month of August.
Park officials said that since 1936, the only day with more rain was April 15, 1988, when 1.47 inches fell.
Nikki Jones, a restaurant worker staying at a hotel with fellow employees, said it was raining when she went out for breakfast on Friday morning. By the time she returned, the rapidly accumulating water had reached the door of the room.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Ms Jones. “I had never seen water move so fast in my life.”
Afraid that water would enter their ground floor room, Ms. Jones and her friends put their belongings on the beds and used towels under the door to keep the water from getting inside. For about two hours, they wondered if they would get flooded.
“People around me were saying they’ve never looked so bad before – and they’ve worked here for a while,” Ms Jones said.
While his room was spared, five or six other rooms in the hotel were flooded. Later the carpet was removed from those rooms.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Adair in Las Vegas said most of the rain fell between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Friday.
Mr Adair said the floods “cut off access to Death Valley, just washed away roads and created a lot of debris”.
Highway 190 – a main artery through the park – is expected to reopen between Furnace Creek and Pahrump, Nevada by Tuesday, officials said.
Officials said that the park employees, who were stranded due to the closed roads, have also taken shelter in places, except in case of emergency.
“The whole trees and boulders were washing away,” said photographer John Sirlin of an Arizona-based adventure company, who saw the flooding as he was sitting on a mountain boulder trying to take pictures of the lightning as the storm approached.
“The noise of some rocks coming down from the mountain was unbelievable,” he said.
Water has receded in most areas, leaving behind a dense layer of clay and gravel.
Around 60 vehicles were partially buried in the mud and debris. There were several reports of road damage, and residential water lines broken in several places in the Cow Creek area of the park. About 20 palm trees fell on the road near an inn, and some employees’ residences were also damaged.
“With the severity and widespread nature of this rain, it will take time to rebuild and reopen everything,” park superintendent Mike Reynolds said in a statement.
The park, 120 miles northeast of Las Vegas, suffered major flooding after a hurricane earlier this week. On Monday, some roads were closed after mud and debris filled with flash floods in western Nevada and northern Arizona.