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Monsoon rain caused flash flooding and rock falls in Zion National Park in southwestern Utah on Wednesday, July 11.
The park received nearly 3 inches of rain in three hours on Wednesday night, according to the park’s Facebook page.
Several rock and debris slides were reported. The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway has been closed indefinitely between Canyon Junction and the East Entrance, according to the post.
The Virgin River experienced a flash flood Wednesday evening. It was running at 5,410 cubic feet per second. In comparison, the river was flowing at 30.9 cubic feet per second on Wednesday morning.
Road crews will assess the damage before removing the debris, making repairs, and reopening roadways.
Park officials announced that the Scenic Drive route remains open up to shuttle stop number 6, the Grotto. Visitors can take a free canyon shuttle to this stop, but may not walk further up the Scenic Drive towards more stops.
"Flash floods are very serious, and visitors should always be aware of the flash flood potential during their visit to Zion. [Thursday's] flash flood potential is probable," the post reads.
The National Park Service encourages potential visitors to check the status on its website or visit the USGS forecast pages.
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It’s not unusual for heavy storms to form during this time of the year in this area, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jordan Root.
"Monsoonal moisture surges into the southwestern United States mid- to late summer and provides the fuel for these thunderstorms to form, typically in the higher terrain," Root said.
"There will be additional storms around Zion National Park through Friday, so flash flooding and rockfalls will continue to be a threat to hikers and visitors," Root said.
The monsoonal moisture will be suppressed southward over the weekend, leading to a decrease in thunderstorm activity over the weekend into early next week, according to Root.
Thunderstorms can contain very heavy downpours in short periods of time due to this monsoonal moisture. Rainfall rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour are not uncommon, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark.
"It is almost impossible to say if or where flash flooding will occur again in the entire area, but conditions will be conducive to the possibility due to the nature of thunderstorms being small scale features," Clark said.
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