Hurricane Hilary headed for Mexico’s Baja California Saturday as the U.S, National Hurricane Center predicted “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” for the peninsula and for the southwestern United States, where it is forecast to make land in Southern California as a tropical storm on Sunday.
Officials in Los Angeles scrambled to get the homeless off the streets, set up shelters and prepare for evacuations. With a tropical storm watch ratcheted up to a warning on Friday night, shoppers crowded into supermarkets and hardware stores to stock up on food and supplies.
Hilary is expected to plow into the Mexican peninsula on Saturday night and then surge northward and enter the history books as the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years.
The tropical storm warning – a first ever for the region – was issued Friday night for a wide swath from the Pacific coast to interior mountains and deserts. Officials talked of evacuation plans for Catalina Island.
“I don’t think any of us — I know me particularly — never thought I’d be standing here talking about a hurricane or a tropical storm,” said Janice Hahn, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
The region’s beaches are expected to see massive waves starting Sunday as winds begin to buffet the area: In Newport Beach and Huntington Beach in Orange County, and in Cabrillo Beach, the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Zuma Beach in Los Angeles County, waves are expected to rise to eight to 10 feet tall late Sunday into Monday morning. At the Wedge in Newport Beach, bigger sets could reach up to 15 and even 20 feet.
“Large swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions to Southern California,” the National Weather Service posted on Twitter on Saturday morning. Beach erosion is another concern.
Heavy rain is likely to prompt flash flooding in some mountain and foothill areas, along with powerful winds Sunday into Monday.
Flooding might prompt evacuation orders, with the rain turning small streams, creeks, canals, arroyos, and ditches into “dangerous rivers,” leading to potentially destructive runoff in mountain valleys that could raise the risk of rock slides, mudslides and debris flows. Driving conditions could be dangerous and potentially prompt road and bridge closures.
All 👀are on the Southwest, as Hurricane Hilary is expected to bring heavy rainfall beginning today, which may lead to dangerous and locally catastrophic flooding impacts. Large swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions to southern California. pic.twitter.com/BL20ohH8g7
— National Weather Service (@NWS) August 19, 2023
After rapidly gaining power early Friday, Hilary slowed some later in the day but remained a major Category 4 hurricane early Saturday with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, down from 145 mph.
Early Saturday, the storm was centered about 240 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of the Baja peninsula. It was moving north-northwest at 13 mph and was expected to turn more toward the north and pick up speed.
The latest forecast track pointed to Hilary making landfall along a sparsely populated area of the Baja peninsula at a point about 200 miles south of Ensenada.
It is then expected to continue northward, raising fears that its heavy rains could cause dangerous flooding in the border city of Tijuana, where many homes in the city of 1.9 million cling precariously to steep hillsides.
Mayor Montserrat Caballero Ramirez said the city was setting up four shelters in high-risk zones and warning people in risky zones.
“We are a vulnerable city being on one of the most visited borders in the world and because of our landscape,” she said.
Concern has been rising in California and southern parts of Nevada, too.
The National Park Service closed Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve to keep people from becoming stranded amid flooding. Cities across the region, including in Arizona, were offering sandbags to safeguard properties against floodwaters.
Major League Baseball rescheduled three Sunday games in Southern California, moving them to Saturday as part of split-doubleheaders.
And the popular the Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach announced it will temporarily close its fine art show and cancel Pageant of the Masters performances on Sunday and Monday.
Deputies with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department took to the road to urge homeless people living in riverbeds to seek shelter. Authorities in the city were arranging food, cots and shelters for people who needed them.
Widespread moderate to heavy rain expected into Monday. There is a HIGH risk of flash, urban, and arroyo flooding including landslides, mudslides, and debris flows, especially in the mountains and deserts. Dangerous to locally catastrophic flooding impacts are expected. #CAwx https://t.co/Rx4DUJJfUy
— NWS San Diego (@NWSSanDiego) August 19, 2023
SpaceX delayed the launch of a satellite-carrying rocket from a base on California’s central coast until at least Monday. The company said conditions in the Pacific could make it difficult for a ship to recover the rocket booster.
President Joe Biden said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had pre-positioned staff and supplies in the region.
“I urge everyone, everyone in the path of this storm, to take precautions and listen to the guidance of state and local officials,” Biden told reporters Friday at Camp David, where he is meeting with the leaders of Japan and South Korea.
Officials in Southern California were re-enforcing sand berms, built to protect low-lying coastal communities against winter surf, like in Huntington Beach.
In Newport Beach, Tanner Atkinson waited in a line of vehicles for free sandbags at a city distribution point.
“I mean a lot of people here are excited because the waves are gonna get pretty heavy,” Atkinson said. “But I mean, it’s gonna be some rain, so usually there’s some flooding and the landslides and things like that.”
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said she received a call from Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to let her know he will be available 24/7 as the city weathers the storm. The city has federal support on hand “should we need it,” she added.
The state’s Emergency Management Department will activate its Emergency Operation Center to monitor and manage any incidents and impacts on the city, as well.
“311 will be expanding operating hours if there is a high call volume. LAFD Fire Chief (Kristin) Crowley will oversee the Emergency Operations Center. The fire department is fully staffed to respond to this potential rainfall as it impacts, and teams are coordinating and collaborating across the city,” Bass said.
Some schools in Cabo San Lucas were being prepared as temporary shelters, and in La Paz, the picturesque capital of Baja California Sur state on the Sea of Cortez, police patrolled closed beaches to keep swimmers out of the whipped-up surf. Schools were shut down in five municipalities.
It was increasingly likely that Hilary would reach California on Sunday while still at tropical storm strength, though widespread rain was expected to begin as early as Saturday, the National Weather Service’s San Diego office said.
Hurricane officials said the storm could bring heavy rainfall to the southwestern United States, dumping 3 to 6 inches in places, with isolated amounts of up to 10 inches in portions of southern California and southern Nevada.
“Two to three inches of rainfall in Southern California is unheard of” for this time of year, said Kristen Corbosiero, a University of Albany atmospheric scientist who specializes in Pacific hurricanes. “That’s a whole summer and fall amount of rain coming in probably 6 to 12 hours.”
The region could face once-in-a-century rains and there is a good chance Nevada will break its all-time rainfall record, said meteorologist Jeff Masters of Yale Climate Connections and a former government in-flight hurricane meteorologist.
https://www.dailynews.com/2023/08/19/hurricane-hilary-threatens-catastrophic-and-life-threatening-flooding-in-mexico-and-california/ Hurricane Hilary threatens ‘catastrophic and life-threatening’ flooding in Mexico and California – Daily News