August 6, 2008

Wind rips off roof

By Jimmy Biggerstaff
Hi-Desert Star

MORONGO BASIN — Heavy rain in Twentynine Palms and the Joshua Tree National Park Monday caused road closures, washouts and wind damage to several structures.

A powerful and well-formed dust devil took the roof off a house on Ocotillo Road in Johnson Valley about 2 p.m. Monday, including plywood and cross members on one side. The home’s carport also was damaged.

John Jones, a local emergency medical services volunteer, was about a mile away from the meteorological oddity, and confirmed it was not a tornado. Jones described the funnel as about 250 feet high and 300 feet wide.

The thermal originated from the ground, not from clouds, Jones said.

Johnson Valley’s fire station sustained damage to a light fixture and television antenna.

Megan Blaney, a public information officer with the San Bernardino County Fire Department, said the emergency operations center [EOC] in Rialto was activated in response to an emergency declaration by the City of Twentynine Palms.

The EOC was still active Tuesday afternoon.

Robert Eland, the field representative for county supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, was at work in Twentynine Palms Tuesday assessing damage to help determine how San Bernardino County could best help Twentynine Palms with clean-up and recovery efforts.

Park closes road, camps

Strong thunderstorms across the north central area of Joshua Tree National Park damaged a number of park facilities. The storm forced park officials to temporarily close a number of park facilities. Roads and camping areas affected by the closures are open to day-use hiking.

Due to flash flood damage, the following park facilities are closed until further notice:

The Indian Cove Area, including;

  • Indian Cove Road south of Indian Cove Ranger Station

  • Indian Cove Campground

  • Indian Cove group campsites

  • Rattlesnake Canyon Day Use Area
Additionally, Park Route 12 is closed from the park’s North Entrance south five miles to the Pinto Wye Junction.

While 0.77 inches of rain were recorded at park headquarters in Twentynine Palms, rangers estimate that storm-affected areas in the park may have received from 3 to 5 inches of rain

Torrential floodwaters were observed crossing one section of park road just south of the North Entrance, resulting in the complete loss of 30 feet of roadway, according to Joe Zarki, the park’s public information officer.

The North Entrance Road will be closed for about 48 hours while temporary repairs are made, Zarki wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.

In the Indian Cove area, floodwaters scoured steep drop-offs along the edges of about one-third of the road leading to Indian Cove Campground and significant flood damage occurred in portions of the campground as well.

Park service officials estimate it will take about two weeks to make the necessary repairs before the Indian Cove Campground and Indian Cove Road can be reopened for public use.

The park’s other main entrances, the West Entrance, five miles south of the community of Joshua Tree, and South Entrance, near Interstate 10, remain open for public use.

Park trails are open, but hikers and equestrians should exercise caution as many trails have not yet been assessed for flood damage.

“Please observe all road closures,” Zarki said. “These have been put in place for your safety.”