Hurricane Hilary is a powerful storm that formed in the eastern Pacific Ocean and rapidly intensified into a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 mph. It is expected to weaken as it approaches the coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, but still bring heavy rain and strong winds to the region.
What makes Hilary historic is that it is the first hurricane to threaten California with a tropical storm warning since 1939. This means that tropical storm conditions, such as winds of at least 39 mph and heavy rain, are expected within 36 hours. The warning extends from the state’s southern border to just north of Los Angeles, covering a large and densely populated area.
Hurricane Hilary is also unusual because it is moving northward along the coast, rather than westward away from land, as most Pacific hurricanes do. This is due to a high-pressure system over the western US that is steering the storm toward the coast. This also means that Hilary will interact with another weather system, an atmospheric river, that is bringing moisture from the tropics to the Southwest. The combination of these two systems will create a rare and dangerous situation for California and the Southwest.
What are the impacts and risks of Hurricane Hilary?
The main impact and risk of Hurricane Hilary is the potential for catastrophic flooding from heavy rain. The storm is expected to bring 3 to 6 inches of rain, with isolated amounts of up to 10 inches, to parts of Southern California and Southern Nevada. This is more than a year’s worth of rain for some areas, especially in August, which is typically the driest month of the year. The rain will begin on Saturday and last into early next week, with the most intense conditions on Sunday and Monday.
The heavy rain will cause flash floods, mudslides, debris flows, and river flooding in many areas, especially in low-lying, urban, and mountainous regions. The flood risk is especially high for areas that have been affected by recent wildfires, such as the Dixie Fire and the Caldor Fire, which have burned more than a million acres in Northern California. The burned vegetation and soil make these areas more prone to erosion and runoff, which can carry large amounts of ash, sediment, and debris downstream.
The heavy rain will also pose a threat to infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, dams, power lines, and water systems. The rain could cause road closures, power outages, water contamination, and damage to buildings and structures. The rain could also hamper firefighting efforts and evacuation operations in areas affected by wildfires.
In addition to the flooding risk, Hurricane Hilary will also bring strong winds and high surf to the coast. The winds could gust up to 60 mph in some areas, causing damage to trees, roofs, signs, and other objects. The high surf could cause coastal erosion, beach closures, rip currents, and dangerous waves. The storm could also spawn tornadoes or waterspouts along the coast or inland.
How are people preparing for Hurricane Hilary?
In anticipation of Hurricane Hilary’s impacts, officials across the region have begun to prepare for emergency response and recovery efforts. Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo announced Friday that 100 state National Guard troops will be deployed to southern Nevada, which may see significant flooding. President Joe Biden said in a Friday news conference that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has preemptively positioned personnel and supplies to respond in Southern California or other parts of the region if needed.
Residents in the affected areas are also advised to take precautions before the storm arrives. Some of the recommended actions include:
- Stocking up on food, water, batteries, flashlights, radios, first aid kits, medications, and other essential supplies.
- Filling up gas tanks and keeping cell phones charged.
- Securing outdoor furniture, trash cans, and other loose items that could be blown away by the wind.
- Clearing gutters, drains, and downspouts of debris that could clog them and cause flooding.
- Moving vehicles and valuables to higher ground or safer locations.
- Avoiding driving or walking through flooded roads or areas.
- Following local authorities’ instructions on evacuation orders or shelter-in-place directives.
- Staying informed of the latest weather updates and warnings from reliable sources.
Hurricane Hilary is a rare and dangerous storm that poses a serious threat to California and the Southwest. By being prepared and vigilant, residents can reduce their risk of harm and damage from this historic event.