UPDATE: 4:28 p.m. – U.S. 395 has just been closed at Haiwee Reservoir due to flooding and extensive mud and debris, according to Caltrans Public Information Officer Florene Trainor. Whitney Portal Road, meanwhile, remains closed while county road crews attempted to fix extensive damage caused by overnight flooding. The threat of flash floods in Death Valley continues. With rain continuing to fall, Sheriff Bill Lutze said his office was "keeping an eye" on the streams as well as the thunderheads building over Mt. Whitney. S.R. 168 West is expected to remain closed until at least tomorrow morning, depending on the weather.
The “Flash Flood Watch” announced Monday by the National Weather Service remains in effect today for Inyo County through at least 11 p.m. In fact, according to the NWS, the Great Basin – Inyo County, Death Valley and parts beyond – is one of two areas nationwide with the greatest “flash flooding potential” on Tuesday. Coming in at No. 2 is New England and the Hudson and Delaware valleys. During the night, heavy rains took their toll on State Route 168 West, known as Westgard Pass, with as-yet-unconfirmed reports of large boulders having been deposited in the roadway by floodwaters. According to Caltrans District 9 Public Information Officer Florene Trainor, the entire pass was closed about 8 a.m. this morning from U.S. 395 outside of Big Pine to Nevada State Route 266 in response to motorist reports of unsafe travel conditions. Crew members are currently searching for the specific problems. Both Sunday and Monday nights came and went with rain, lightning and some of the loudest thunder booms in recent memory. A mudslide just after midnight on July 22 took the occupants of a Nissan Titan on a wild, 1.5-mile ride when it came pouring out of the hills north of Coso Junction westward toward Haiwee Reservoir. No serious injuries were reported. Three other vehicles were trapped on the side of highway and buried in mud. The highway was closed for several hours before being re-opened at about 8 a.m. With more thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon, motorists and hikers in particular are being advised to be careful in flood-prone areas – dry plains, washes and recently burned areas.