About 160 people had to shelter in place for hours at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico due to flash flooding before they were evacuated Saturday, authorities said.
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. The heavy downpours sent flood waters rushing through the park.
Unable to leave, park visitors took shelter 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 National Park is being evacuated & will be CLOSED until further notice,” a Saturday evening social media post from the city government read. “120-160 people sheltered in place.”
Carlsbad Caverns is a World Heritage site that features 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 visitor center around 11:30 p.m., her husband, Richard Cardoza, said. He also described a dangerous drive out of the park.
“There were three or four places that, if they had not been escorting us, I wouldn’t have gone through,” he said.
“It was scary and we thought, ‘Oh my God, are we ever going to get out of here?” Monica Cardoza told CNN. “But thank God, we are safe.”
The visitor center and cavern remained closed Sunday as maintenance crews work to assess and clean debris from the roadway, according to the National Park Service.
Nearly 10 million people across New Mexico, Arizona and western Texas were under flood watches Saturday.
On Friday, at Utah’s Zion National Park, rangers were alerted about hikers being “swept off their feet” and found an injured hiker who had been pulled downstream “several hundred yards.”