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Heavy rain, possibility of flash flooding in forecast for Death Valley

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It’s certainly one of the few locations in the nation where weather forecasters are warning about the possibility of flash floods, while at the same time national park officials are cautioning about the dangers of extreme summer heat.

Death Valley -- the hottest and driest spot in North America -- is part of a wide area of the Mojave Desert where National Weather Service forecasters have issued a “hazardous weather outlook.”

The warning from the weather service comes not because of the extremely hot temperatures that roast the region throughout the summer -- but because of heavy rain and the potential for flash flooding expected late Sunday and throughout the rest of the week.

Forecasters are describing a “chaotic and unusual situation” in the skies above the vast desert that includes Death Valley, and stretches across California’s remote and sparsely populated Inyo County, and into western Nevada.

That situation, according to the National Weather Service’s Forecast Discussion page, has created a “cloud shield” -- a weather condition that could produce thunderstorms with the potential to dump more than an inch of rain in less than 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, even with the thunderstorms, temperatures -- as usual for Death Valley in July -- are expected to soar well above 100 degrees. Forecasters are predicting temperatures to hit 119 on Monday and Tuesday in Furnace Creek, a tiny community and virtual oasis within Death Valley.

With the sizzling temperatures, the U.S. National Park Service -- the operators of Death Valley National Park -- has issued an “extreme summer heat” alert.

Besides the usual cautions to drink plenty of water and to avoid hiking in the heat, park officials are also also warning visitors to avoid canyons during rainstorms and to be prepared to move to higher ground during downpours.

Drivers should also be on the alert for water running through washes and accumulating in dips in the road.

Death Valley is the home of the hottest air temperature ever recorded, where it hit 134 on July 10, 1913.

The vast national park, with about 3.4 million acres of desert and mountain terrain, is located about 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles, or nearly 500 miles southeast of San Francisco.

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