Tropical Storm Hilary, which was once a powerful Category 4 hurricane, made landfall on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico on Sunday, bringing heavy rain, strong winds and high surf to the region. The storm also disrupted life for millions of people in Southern California, where it triggered flash flood warnings, road closures and power outages.
Hilary is expected to bring “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding to parts of the Southwest, according to the National Weather Service, even as its top wind speeds continue to weaken. The storm is moving northward at about 15 mph and is forecast to cross into Arizona by Monday night.
Southern California faces rare tropical storm warning
For the first time in 84 years, Southern California is under a tropical storm warning, meaning that tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours. The warning covers Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, as well as parts of Nevada and Arizona.
The storm could dump up to 10 inches of rain in some areas, especially in the mountains and deserts, where flash flooding and mudslides are possible. The coastal areas could see up to 4 inches of rain, along with dangerous surf and rip currents. Wind gusts up to 60 mph could also cause damage and power outages.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation said it would close all beaches in Orange and San Diego counties on Sunday and Monday, citing the hazardous conditions brought on by Hilary. Emergency officials urged the public to take precautions, limit outdoor activities and avoid non-essential travel.
Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula hit hard by Hilary
Hilary made landfall over the northern part of the Baja California Peninsula on Sunday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. The storm brought massive waves and heavy surf to the coast, where social media posts showed extreme flooding occurring in some towns.
The storm also caused widespread damage to infrastructure, crops and homes in the peninsula, which is home to popular tourist destinations such as Cabo San Lucas and La Paz. The Mexican government deployed more than 2,000 soldiers and federal police officers to assist with rescue and relief efforts.
Hilary is the eighth named storm and the fourth hurricane of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. The season has been more active than usual, with several storms forming earlier than normal. Experts attribute this to the effects of climate change, which create warmer ocean temperatures and more favorable conditions for hurricane development.