Tropical Storm Hilary made landfall on the coast of Baja California, Mexico on Sunday. Storm concerns could cause deadly flooding in places as far north as Tijuana, a border city in Southern California, and in Idaho, where such heavy rains rarely fall.
Forecasters expected Hilary to make history as the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, bringing flooding, flooding, isolated tornadoes, strong winds and power outages.
Hilary made landfall in a sparsely populated area about 150 miles (250 kilometers) south of Ensenada, Mexico. The storm has already caused flooding across the Baja Peninsula, and torrential rains have threatened mudslide-prone Tijuana, where homes cling to hillsides just south of the US border.
Other western states could be hit with once-in-a-century rains, while Hillary is likely to break all-time records as the wettest tropical cyclone, ravaging Nevada, Oregon and Idaho. Hilary was expected to remain a tropical storm toward central Nevada on Monday morning before dissipating.
As of 11 a.m. Pacific Time, Hilary was located about 215 miles (340 kilometers) south-southeast of San Diego, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hilary had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 km/h) and was moving northwest at 25 mph (41 km/h).
Michael Brennan, director of the Hurricane Center, said that while Hilary has weakened from a Category 4 hurricane, it’s the water, not the wind, that people should be most concerned about.
“Flooding has been the biggest killer of tropical storms and hurricanes in the U.S. for the last 10 years, and you don’t want to become a statistic,” Brennan said in an online briefing from Miami.
Hilary is the latest major climate disaster to wreak havoc across the United States, Canada and Mexico. The Hawaiian island of Maui is still reeling from a fire that killed more than 100 people last week and devastated the historic town of Lahaina. Firefighters across Canada are battling blazes during the nation’s worst fire season.
The Mexican cities of Ensenada and Tijuana closed all beaches in the direct path of the storm, and opened half a dozen shelters at sports complexes and government offices.
One person drowned after a car overturned in floodwaters in Santa Rosalia, Mexico on Saturday. Mulege mayor Edith Aguilar Villavicencio said rescuers rescued four more people.
Rainfall could be between 3 and 6 inches (7 centimeters and 15 centimeters) in many areas, Brennan said. Forecasters warned that some isolated areas could receive up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) – a year’s worth of rain.
Light rain drenched streets from Los Angeles to San Diego on Sunday morning in otherwise sunny Southern California. While some runners took advantage of the cool rain at San Diego’s Waterfront Park, surfers braved Orange County’s breakers ahead of the storm.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said California’s office of emergency preparedness had officials and teams on standby with food, water and other aid.
Hilary left long and washed out highways and roads in the Baja Peninsula after Sunday. Some of the worst damage occurred in the coastal towns of Mulege and Santa Rosalia, on the eastern side of the peninsula, where a man died on Saturday after his family’s car was swept away by swollen waters. 4 other people in the car were rescued. Power lines were down in many places, and emergency workers were scrambling to restore power and reach those cut off by the storm.
In California, evacuation warnings were issued for Santa Catalina Island, urging residents and beachgoers to leave the tourist destination for the mainland and several mountain and foothill communities in San Bernardino County. Orange County has issued an alert for anyone who suffered a burn injury in the wildfires in Silverado and Williams Canyons of the Santa Ana Mountains.
Los Angeles officials scrambled to get the homeless off the streets and into shelters, and officials ordered the closure of all state beaches in San Diego and Orange counties.
Municipalities across the region ran out of free sandbags and food shelves as residents stocked up. California’s Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve are closed to prevent visitors from being stranded during flooding.
“I urge everyone, anyone in the path of this storm, to take precautions and heed the instructions of state and local officials,” said President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, one of several budding storm systems in the Atlantic Ocean became Tropical Storm Emily on Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was moving westward in the open ocean, away from land.