Tropical Storm Hilary has made landfall, resulting in widespread flooding across Southern California. The arid Baja California region in Mexico faced deadly floodwaters as the storm moved ashore, bringing torrential rain to Southern California. Concerns are now growing that flash floods might strike even farther north, reaching regions like Idaho that seldom experience such heavy rainfall.
Forecasters have indicated that Hilary marks the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in over eight decades. This rare event has brought with it the potential for various hazards including flash floods, mudslides, isolated tornadoes, high winds, and power outages.
Hilary arrived on the Mexican coast in a sparsely inhabited area approximately 150 miles south of Ensenada. It is projected to target Tijuana, an area prone to mudslides, on Sunday evening. The storm poses a threat to improvised homes situated on hillsides just south of the U.S. border.
A flash-flood warning has been issued for over 9 million people in Southern California, where heavy rainfall has replaced the usual sunny weather. Desert regions and hillsides with wildfire burn scars are particularly vulnerable, according to meteorologists.
Across the affected area, mud has inundated highways, drainage systems have been overwhelmed, and tree branches have fallen. The weather service has also raised the possibility of tornadoes occurring in eastern San Diego County on Sunday afternoon.
Southern California experienced another unexpected event in the afternoon—a 5.1 magnitude earthquake near Ojai, located about 80 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. While widely felt and followed by aftershocks, there have been no immediate reports of significant damage or injuries.
Hilary’s impact could extend to other Western states, possibly causing once-in-a-century rains. There’s a substantial likelihood that the storm will become the wettest known tropical cyclone affecting Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho. Hilary is forecasted to remain a tropical storm through early Monday while moving into central Nevada before dissipating.
As of 2 p.m. local time, Hilary was positioned 115 miles south-southeast of San Diego, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. The storm was moving northwest at nearly 25 mph. Although Hilary weakened from a Category 4 hurricane, experts emphasize that it’s the water, not the wind, that poses the greatest danger. Some regions could receive an entire year’s worth of rain within just a few hours, underscoring the importance of avoiding flooded roads and staying safe indoors.
Michael Brennan, Director of the National Hurricane Center, stressed that rainfall flooding has proven to be a significant cause of fatalities during tropical storms and hurricanes in recent years. The warning remains clear: individuals should refrain from attempting to cross flooded areas, whether on foot or in vehicles, to avoid becoming a statistic.