Flash floods wreak havoc in US Southwest – but no cure for drought | American News

Flash floods that have hit the American Southwest in recent days have shut down parts of national parks including Moab and Zion, closed highways in Colorado, submerged cars in Texas and trapped tourists in a New York cave. Mexico. A young woman is still missing after being swept away while hiking in Sion on Friday.

But the destructive deluges were not enough to relieve the drought and the continued pressure on water resources, experts say. Even strong storms are unable to overcome the dry conditions that have been brewing for decades.

Summer monsoons are a natural feature of the southwest and parched landscapes can usually count on this annual respite, but the intensity between wet and dry extremes is increasing, along with the destruction that both can cause. As the world heats up, scientists predict the effects will get worse.

“There is a duality in the effect of climate change on the hydrological cycle,” said Dr. Andrew Hoell, a meteorologist at the Physical Sciences Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), noting that heavy rains and underlying drought conditions exist at different times. Balance. It will take a sustained rainy season during the cold winter months to break the conditions and the forecast does not give much optimism for the months ahead. Dry soils are also less able to absorb added moisture when storms are severe.

“We are already in a rather difficult situation where we have low water reserves in our lakes and reservoirs,” he said, “despite the fact that it seems that we have had a small temporary respite due some active monsoon rains”.

Vehicles submerged in floodwaters seen in footage by the Dallas Police Department.
Vehicles submerged in floodwaters seen in footage by the Dallas Police Department. Photograph: Dallas Police Department/AFP/Getty Images

The rain also caused widespread destruction and put people at risk.

Authorities have been searching for days for Jetal Agnihotri, 29, of Tucson, who was reported missing after floodwaters swept away in Zion National Park, Utah.

“Our search and rescue operation is ongoing,” park spokesman Jonathan Shafer said. “We have researchers on the ground again today and we’re working closely with the National Weather Service to monitor the forecast and we’ll pay close attention to that in the future.”

Agnihotri was among several hikers swept away Friday afternoon rushing through the popular Narrows area of ​​the park, known for its dramatic red rock cliffs and narrow canyons, in southern Utah near the Arizona border. The waterfront promenade and the gully remain closed.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park officials said about 150 tourists were evacuated late Saturday night after being stranded by rising waters. Park officials told people at the visitor center to wait there for hours because of the flash floods. In Arizona, emergency crews rescued four hikers stranded in Sabino Canyon east of Tucson on Friday and helped 41 Marana students and staff get out of school buses that got stuck in high water when the storms began to move.

A slow-moving storm dumped record amounts of rain on the Dallas-Fort Worth area, prompting rescues from rising waters. A state of disaster was declared in Dallas County Monday night after the area was almost the amount of rain in one day that usually falls over the whole summer.

Texas officials reported one death from storms, after pulling an unidentified woman from the waters. The incident is under investigation, but first responders said they believe she died after her car was swept from a flooded road.

The severe storms were just the latest to wreak havoc on the region, producing a major flash flood of Death Valley earlier this month and pushed the Navajo Nation declares state of emergency. Parts of Yellowstone National Park are still recovering from the multimillion-dollar destruction caused by record rains in June, and debris flows have forced New Mexico residents to be hit by wildfires. catastrophic forest early in the season. evacuate for the second time in a few months.

This image from the Death Valley National Park Service shows monsoon rain flooding.
This image from the Death Valley National Park Service shows monsoon rain flooding. Photo: National Park Service/AFP/Getty Images

But along with the damage, the rains had some welcome effects. “After a long period of severe drought, heavy rains have brought large-scale improvement to monsoon-affected areas,” the latest US report said. Drought Summary of the monitor said. Benefits included increased levels at the beleaguered Lake Mead, which rose 2ft over the weekend. While those precious centimeters are promising, the reservoir is only 27% full and is close to reaching a level where it can no longer produce hydroelectric power.

Even with a strong monsoon in the southwest, more than half of the American West remains categorized as “severe drought” by the US Drought Monitor.

Calling the drought a cascading danger, Hoell warned that these rains would not mean the end of dry weather, especially with forecasts showing little hope for a much-needed wet winter.

“Residents in this area could see increases in water levels and possibly let their guard down,” he said. “Just because you have a few weeks or months of good rainfall during the summer doesn’t mean lake levels are near average,” he added. “We are still in the midst of a huge drought.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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