Debris flow carries boulders, mud through Mount Rainier National Park

Video captures water pouring out of the South Tahoma Glacier in Mount Rainier National Park.

“It’s hard to describe how cool it is to be next to something like that and to see that firsthand,” said park geologist Scott Beason.

Beason witnessed the aftermath of this week’s Tahoma Creek debris flow from the sky.

“A lot of water was coming out of the glacier and, as we were watching it, we could see rock and boulders and stuff falling in because the slopes were super steep,” he said.

The National Park Service said the debris flow happened between 6:48 and 7:58 p.m. Monday on the southwest side of the park, damaging Tahoma Creek Trail and Westside Road.

Geologists said it’s tough to tell what caused the debris flow, but the warm weather likely played a role.

“If you go up, all the creeks right now basically look like chocolate milk, they’re full of sediment,” said Darin Berdinka.

Because Westside Road is blocked, visitors had to take a different route in the park.

“This was our No. 1 stop here exclusively for our dog and so I guess we will be moving on now because of the landslide,” said Jose Castro.

Beason said debris flows are getting more common in the Tahoma Creek valley.

They’ve recorded 32 outburst floods and debris flows since 1967, which is the same year a section of the glacier broke off.

It’s possible another debris flow will happen again.

“If you hear something, don’t try to outrace it, just try to get uphill as fast as you can because going up a couple hundred feet could save your life in an event like that,” said Beason.

Visitors who witnessed the event Monday are encouraged to report observations to Beason at scott_beason@nps.gov.

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