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article imageDeath Valley's 1,000-year-floods — A preview of El Nino's wrath?

By Karen Graham     Nov 11, 2015 in Environment
Death Valley - California's Death Valley National Park endured torrential rains in October this year, making it the wettest month on record. The hard-hitting storms and weather system were responsible for the 1,000-year-flood event that followed.
The northern section of the park was battered by powerful thunderstorms, followed by a weather system that dropped three inches of rain in nearly five hours. The 1,000-year-flood event beat at structures, inundating them with mud up to four-feet deep, chewed up roads, and rearranged the rocky landscape.
The rains and resulting flooding was unnatural, to say the least in an area that normally sees only 4 inches or less of rain a year. Hit hard was a tourist attraction known as Scotty's Castle in Grapevine Canyon. Flood-waters coursed through the canyon at 93,000 cubic feet per second, causing great damage to the 1920s historical site.
Built in 1922  thecastle is named for gold prospector  performer  and con man Walter Scott  born in ...
Built in 1922, thecastle is named for gold prospector, performer, and con man Walter Scott, born in Cynthiana, Kentucky, also known as “Death Valley Scotty."
The area's infrastructure took the hardest hit, with the visitor's center sewage system being destroyed and many sections of roads and highways being broken into tiny pieces by the destructiveness of the storm. The estimated costs for repairs and rebuilding of roads and highways is expected to run into the millions of dollars.
Comparing Death Valley and The Atacama desert in Chile
About 93,000 cubic feet or 2633 cubic meters of water per second was flowing out of Grapevine Canyon, that's “10 times that of a 100-year flood,” says Gizmodo. The terms 100-year flood or 1000-year flood are a way of measuring the size of a flood as related to its "statistical occurrence in any given year." In other words, there was a 0.1 percent chance of this severe a flood hitting an area which only gets four inches of rain a year.
The Atacama desert turns into a blooming carpet of wildflowers after El Nino s heavy rains this year...
The Atacama desert turns into a blooming carpet of wildflowers after El Nino's heavy rains this year.
Death Valley is very much like the Atacama desert in Chile, spotlighted earlier this month in Digital Journal. Both places are known for their dry, hot conditions. The Atacama is known as the driest non-polar place in the world, and Death Valley is the lowest, driest, and hottest area in North America.
In March of this year, El Nino produced extremely heavy rains in Northern Chile, causing destructive mudslides and flooding that left over 28 people dead. But where El Nino was responsible for the Atacama's transformation into a vast sea of color, El Nino cannot be blamed for the floods in Death Valley.
El Nino is lurking backstage, waiting for spring
The National Weather Service says the storms were not caused by El Nino but were the result of moist air that frequently drifts across Southern California in August, September and October. The NWS explained that the extreme heat of the desert condensed the moisture into massive thunderheads that dumped the huge amounts of water in a very short period.
A powerful weather system on Sunday  October 18  2015 dropped nearly three inches of rain in five ho...
A powerful weather system on Sunday, October 18, 2015 dropped nearly three inches of rain in five hours, triggering a 1,000-year flood event that battered historic structures, roads and utilities in Grapevine Canyon around Scotty's Castle and elsewhere in the park.
National Park Service
The bad part is this: El Nino hasn't reached California yet, and is still on its way. The good news is that like the Atacama desert, we will probably see Death Valley transformed into a crazy quilt of color next spring. Heavy rains have dissolved the waxy coating that has protected wildflower seeds that have lain dormant for years in the heat that can soar to 200 degrees.
“It’s the paradox of existence in the hottest, driest and lowest place in the United States,” said Linda Slater, a spokeswoman for Death Valley. “Everywhere you look are barren lands carved by torrential rains and flash flooding, and wildlife taking advantage of the wet weather.
More about Death valley, 1000 year flood event, El Nino, Atacama desert, Devastation
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