Watch: Mexico earthquake causes ‘desert tsunami’ in Death Valley

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A screen shot of security camera video footage that captured the waves in Devils Hole. (Photo: Ambre Chaudoin/National Park Service)

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A strong earthquake earlier this week in Mexico triggered four-foot waves in Death Valley’s Devils Hole.

Measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, Monday’s earthquake was centered about a hundred miles southeast of Guadalajara. Two people were killed in the Pacific coast state of Colima.

The quake hit at 11:05 a.m. PT Monday and it took 22 minutes to have an effect 1,500 miles away in Devils Hole in Death Valley National Park.

Devils Hole is a limestone cave hundreds of feet deep and is home to the endangered Devils Hole pupfish that depend upon algae growing on a shallow, sunlit shelf.

Video courtesy Ambre Chaudoin/NPS

The National Park Service said the water in Devils Hole began sloshing around and by 11:35, waves were reaching about four feet high. One member of the park service was able to capture video, seen above, of the so-called “desert tsunami.”

Monday’s waves stirred the sediment and rocks on the shallow shelf, according to the park service, and removed much of the algae growth. This will likely reduce the food available to the pupfish.  

“The pupfish have survived several of these events in recent years,” said Kevin Wilson, National Park Service aquatic ecologist, in a Wednesday news release from the park. “We didn’t find any dead fish after the waves stopped.” 

Earlier this month, remnants of Hurricane Kay, which made landfall in Mexico, caused waterfalls to form in Death Valley. The nation’s hottest and driest national park saw intense flooding due to the storm, blocking traffic and causing a tour bus to become stuck in soft sand.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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