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Route through Death Valley delayed again, reopening date to be determined

The California Department of Transportation has delayed reopening State Route 190 through Death Valley National Park for a third time as crews continue to work on repairing the road following severe flooding on Aug. 5.

The route will reopen no sooner than Friday, according to the National Park Service.

After a near-record 1.46 inches of rain hit the park earlier this month, the California DOT initially announced the state route would reopen by Aug. 9. Reopening was delayed to Wednesday, but the route across the western side of the park that connects to Panamint Springs Resort, Father Crowley Overlook and Lee Flat was reopened on Aug. 10.

On Monday, the department delayed reopening the route for the third time. Most park roads continue to be closed.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Dantes View, Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin and the Mesquite Sand Dunes remain inaccessible via State Route 190 due to flood damage. Park rangers warned visitors to avoid backcounty roads through the park that may be impassable due to damage and debris.

The park is still technically open if entered on foot, but the park service has discouraged visitors from entering this way because of dangerous heat. The forecast at Death Valley called for sunny conditions this week with highs around 115 degrees near Furnace Creek and lows between 69 and 72 degrees in the mountains, according to the National Weather Service.

Timelines for repair of flash flood damage to roads in California’s other desert wilderness parks also are being extended even as monsoonal rains cause new problems.

Joshua Tree National Park was hit Tuesday by a massive rainstorm concentrated in the southern area of the park and road crews were working to assess and repair damage that closed several roads, a statement issued Wednesday said.

It was the second deluge there this month. The southern side of Joshua Tree was evacuated and roads closed when flooding hit on Aug. 8.

All northern facilities and paved roads have remained open.

In the Mojave National Preserve, the monsoonal rains have “reawakened flora and fauna,” according to a press release.

The preserve said a July 30 deluge dumped 6 inches of rain in some areas of the park, where average August rainfall is typically 1.2 inches.

August is usually characterized by muted landscapes and arid conditions but now mild temperatures and vibrant green foliage have led to more wildlife sightings.

“White-lined Sphinx moths, California patch butterflies, horned lizards, rabbits, desert tortoise and bighorn sheep have been frequently observed by park staff over the last few weeks,” the park said.

All of the preserve’s paved roads were closed for nearly two weeks after the flood. Now, North Kelbaker Road, between Kelso Depot and Baker, remains closed and will likely take months to repair, the preserve said.

Contact Taylor Lane at tlane@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tmflane on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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