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Powerful storm sends dumpsters tumbling, roof flying in Death Valley National Park

Powerful storm sends dumpsters tumbling, roof flying in Death Valley National Park
A powerful microburst swept through Death Valley National Park, sending dumpsters tumbling down the road and the roof of a historic building flying. (Alexandria Boyer / National Park Service)

A powerful storm swept through Death Valley National Park on Monday evening, producing strong winds that sent dumpsters tumbling down the road and the roof of a historic building flying.

The heavy gusts lasted only 10 minutes, but the National Park Service estimated winds were blowing up to 100 mph.

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Park service workers ducked behind porch pillars to protect themselves as the roof of a 1930s historic building used as an office in Cow Creek blew off. When winds died down, rangers covered their computers and office equipment to prevent rain damage.

In Stovepipe Wells, the roofs of five other buildings were also damaged, while windows of four cars were blown out. In Furnace Creek, a palm tree near the Inn at Death Valley (formerly the Furnace Creek Inn) caught fire from a lightning strike.

The National Weather Service tracked winds as high as 48 mph during the so-called downburst, caused when the air below a storm cools rapidly from evaporating rain and causes a cold rush of air down toward the ground.

"Eventually you get a strong burst of wind in all directions once that cold air encounters the surface," said Alex Boothe, an intern meteorologist with the weather service.

Twitter: @AleneTchek

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