Flash flooding at Carlsbad Caverns National Park forces the evacuation of about 160 people

Eddy County, where much of the park is located, was under a flash flood warning Saturday afternoon, and the park received 0.6 inches of rain that day, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy downpours sent floodwaters rushing through the park.

Unable to leave, park visitors hunkered down at the visitor center for nearly nine hours, CNN affiliate KOAT reported. Park officials allowed people to leave just before midnight, according to KOAT.

“Carlsbad Caverns State Park is being evacuated and will be CLOSED until further notice,” a city government social media post read Saturday night. “120-160 people accommodated on site.”

Carlsbad Caverns is a World Heritage Site that includes more than 119 limestone caves, according to the National Park Service.

Monica Cardoza and her family were visiting the caves on what was supposed to be a day trip from El Paso, Texas when rangers approached and told them they had to evacuate as the storm worsened.

They were allowed to leave the reception center around 11:30 p.m., her husband, Richard Cardoza, said. He also described a dangerous exit from the park.

“There were three or four places that, if they hadn’t escorted us, I wouldn’t have passed,” he said.

“It was scary and we were like, ‘Oh my God, are we ever going to get out of here?’ Monica Cardoza told CNN, “But thank God we’re safe.”

The visitor center and cavern remained closed Sunday as maintenance crews work to assess and clear debris from the pavement, according to the National Park Service.

Nearly 10 million people across New Mexico, Arizona and West Texas were under flood watch Saturday.
In Zion National Park, Utah, on Friday, rangers were alerted to hikers being “swept away” and found an injured hiker who had been dragged “several hundred yards” downstream.

CNN’s Nouran Salahieh, Allison Chinchar and Haley Brink contributed to this report.

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