News Release

High winds cause extensive damage to buildings and vehicles

A park building is missing part of its roof
A park building is missing most of its roof

NPS Photo - Alexandria Boyer

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News Release Date: September 12, 2017

Contact: Linda Slater, 760-786-3279

DEATH VALLEY, CALIF.—A powerful storm system brought heavy rains and wind to Death Valley National Park yesterday. Extremely high winds in the Cow Creek administrative area blew the roof off of a historic office building dating back to the Civilian Conservation Corps era of the 1930s. Windows were blown out of four vehicles belonging to staff living at Cow Creek. Roofs of five other buildings at Stovepipe Wells were also damaged.

Although the wind was extremely strong, it didn’t last long. Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds estimated wind speeds at up to 100 miles per hour, but said the high winds lasted for only about ten minutes. Superintendent Reynolds observed the storm from the porch of an office building in Cow Creek. “Lightning strikes were coming fast and furious, when a sudden micro-burst of wind swept through Cow Creek,” said Reynolds. “We ducked behind the porch pillars to protect ourselves from the wind, and then saw dumpsters blowing down the road.” After the winds died down, rangers discovered the missing roof and covered up computers and office equipment to protect them from the rain.
“The atmosphere during this storm was very dry below the storm cell,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Alex Boothe. “Microbursts occur when rain falls into very dry air causing evaporational cooling. The cooled air sinks rapidly and spreads in all directions as it hits the ground.”
As the winds blew and heavy rains fell, rangers were called to the Inn at Death Valley to respond to a tree fire—a palm tree had been struck by lightning and was smoldering in the crown. Rangers were able to quickly extinguish the fire burning in the garden area west of the Inn.
North Highway/Scotty’s Castle Road, Titus Canyon Road, and Mesquite Campground are closed. All other roads and facilities are open.


Death Valley National Park is the homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone and preserves natural and cultural resources, exceptional wilderness, scenery, and learning experiences within the nation’s largest conserved desert landscape and some of the most extreme climate and topographic conditions on the planet. About two-thirds of the park was originally designated as Death Valley National Monument in 1933. Today the park is enjoyed by about 1,300,000 people per year. The park is 3,400,000 acres – nearly as large as the state of Connecticut. Learn more at 

Last updated: September 13, 2017

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Death Valley , CA 92328


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