LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Damages from Tropical Storm Hilary can still be seen throughout Death Valley as the national park is still closed after heavy rain and flash flooding turned the empty desert into a tangled mess of mud and road nearly two weeks ago.
The basin saw 2 inches of rain and the mountains got as much as 5 inches. In a climate like Death Valley, there is nowhere for the rain to go.
Around 400 people were trapped in the park by rain and blocked roads for nearly 24 hours. Ranger Matthew Lamar was at his home in the park when remnants from Tropical Storm Hilary swept through.
“We were told, just stay in your house. Don’t get out and explore,” Lamar said.
In the past year, Death Valley saw its two rainiest days ever and park rangers expect more storms like Hilary in the future.
The storm reshaped the desert, tore up the roads, cut phone lines, and wrenched apart sewer pipes.
“There is quite a bit of damage. There is a lot of undercut highways. A lot of missing asphalt,” Lamar said.
While the park is off-limits to visitors, crews are busy cleaning up the mud, repairing water and communication lines, and fixing holes in the road.
CalTrans said it could cost $6 million to just fix the main highway since there are sections where either one or two lanes have collapsed.
When the time comes, Death Valley rangers expect to reopen the park in stages however, they do not know when those stages will start.
Death Valley’s two hotels are also closed and many of the workers being called in to clean up the storm damage are staying there instead.