I'm sure that all of you, being in a community like this, are acquainted with the sometimes fickle nature of the desert, and know that in spite of the generally correct concept that deserts=dry, it does sometimes rain. Hard. And when that happens, all holy hell breaks loose. If you live on the coastal side of the California watershed, it means the storm drains flood to bursting and lots of little kids/beloved household pets/careless people get swept away.
If you live in the Amargosa valley, this happens:
(Clicking will take you to larger versions)
Image by Nat'l Park Service Staff
Ok, ok, j/k, j/k... I lied. That's actually Death Valley in '04 during the BIG flash flood that killed at least two people, crushed a whole bunch of cars, floated a giant concrete pit toilet off its foundation to several hundred yards away, and shut the entire park down for more than a week. Y'see that gray patch of cement in the picture above? That used to be a three-way intersection. I have many more photos of the after effects of this event if anyone is interested.
(And yes, that is the Furnace Creek Resort in the back there, for those of you with a discerning eye. These cars came from its parking lot.)
But I didn't lie that hard. The Amargosa Valley is just on the other side of those hills, maybe 20 miles away, which is a hop skip and a jump in high desert terms. Here's what the Amargosa Valley looks like, approximately, on an average day:
Here, on the other hand, is what the Amargosa Valley looked like on The Day The Amargosa River Attacked:
Y'see that water there? That would be the Amargosa River. That river wasn't there before. Hadn't been, for several years, if I recall correctly. (Wikipedia lies, by the way. It absolutely does NOT flow year-round, or generally at ALL...at least not anywhere near this far downstream.) This flow appeared overnight, and was too large to capture photographically in its entirety, except perhaps by aerial means. It crossed the road initially in four places, each crossing increasing drastically in size from west to east. This picture is of the third crossing, and therefore not the largest, but it was taken within 24 hours of the river attacking so the water levels are at this point much higher than they were when the following pictures were taken.
For scale, some people and cars, attempting to ford (oh noes! we lost some oxen, bullets, and two changes of clothing). The picture looks a little more dramatic because it's more well-lit (later=less clouds), and the flow has weakened just enough that it doesn't pass as smoothly over the pavement. You may especially wish to appreciate the sheer mass of water collected on the left side of the road, waiting to attack some unwitting innocent bystander.
Here's a bit more dramatic splashing, courtesy of the red car. I'll also mention that we (well... park staff) emphatically warn against attempting to drive across any water feature like this. Bad shit can happen. My own car started slipping laterally across the pavement when I attempted crossing on the day the first flood picture was taken, and it (rightly) terrified me, and turned me back before I crossed the fourth branch. Nobody got around to closing the road for a few days, so I'm sure many crossings were attempted. All successful, to the best of my knowledge, but that doesn't make it a good idea. *shakes fist* Don't none o' youse try it! I ain't warnin' you agin!
The Amargosa photos were all taken in late September, 2007, here, on State Line Road between Death Valley Junction and the CA/NV border.
The Death Valley photo was taken here, if you zoom out, on the Badwater Road, just off HWY 190.
x-posted on my own journal, posted here by request.