As Hurricane Hilary barrels towards the Southwest, residents are bracing themselves for what experts are predicting to be a catastrophic and life-threatening flood event. The rare occurrence of Hurricane Hilary transforming into a tropical storm is set to commence on Saturday and extend through the coming week.
Despite its recent downgrade from a menacing Category 4 to a Category 3 hurricane on Saturday, the National Hurricane Center reports that Hurricane Hilary still maintains its strength as a significant hurricane with maximum sustained winds clocking in at 125 miles per hour.
The storm’s pace has quickened, now surging at 16 mph, and it is currently situated 235 miles west of the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula. It is projected that as Hurricane Hilary moves north-northwestward, it will gradually weaken due to the influence of cooler waters on its trajectory towards Southern California.
Recent updates indicate that the storm’s acceleration will hasten its impact on the United States. The Southwest can anticipate the onset of heavy rain from the storm as early as Saturday, a precursor to the core’s stronger winds, which are expected to arrive as early as Sunday morning. These winds will bring with them a surge of intense and perilous rainfall, according to statements from the National Hurricane Center.
The National Weather Service in San Diego elucidated, “Hilary’s accelerated pace and its slight eastern shift in trajectory indicate that the most impactful time frame will be from Sunday morning through Sunday evening.”
In response to the imminent threat, California has issued its first-ever tropical storm warning that spans from the state’s southern border to just north of Los Angeles.
The forecast for the Southwest region paints a picture of continuous heavy rainfall until early next week. The most severe conditions are expected to manifest from Sunday into Monday, as Hurricane Hilary marches forward. The excessive rainfall could potentially deliver more precipitation in certain areas than the annual average, engulfing parts of California, Nevada, and Arizona.
Specifically, sections of Southern California and Nevada are projected to receive between 3 to 6 inches of rain, with localized areas possibly accumulating up to 10 inches, as outlined by the National Hurricane Center. Elsewhere, rainfall amounts ranging from 1 to 3 inches are foreseen.
While the core of Hurricane Hilary remains a potent threat, the National Hurricane Center has underscored that the impact of heavy winds and rain will begin well in advance of the storm’s center.
With road conditions poised to worsen, potential power outages, and flood hazards looming, regional authorities have initiated preparations across the board. Governor Joe Lombardo of Nevada has deployed 100 state National Guard troops to the southern part of the state, a region susceptible to significant flooding.
Anticipating the situation, President Joe Biden announced the proactive positioning of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel and resources in Southern California and surrounding areas, should the need for their intervention arise.
Southern California is rallying its resources and reinforcing its defenses. If Hurricane Hilary makes landfall as a tropical storm, it will be the first such incident in the state in nearly 84 years, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Parts of Southern California are bracing for the highest level of risk for excessive rainfall, an unprecedented Level 4 threat. Although such high-risk conditions have been rare, responsible for a small fraction of days per year, they have accounted for the majority of flood-related damage and a significant number of flood-related deaths over the last decade.
As a response to this impending threat, California has marshaled water rescue teams, California National Guard personnel, and flood-fighting equipment in preparation for Hurricane Hilary’s arrival. In addition, constant highway maintenance will be in effect to enhance road safety.
Southern California Edison, a major electricity utility serving over 15 million people in the region, has warned of potential impacts from Hurricane Hilary. The utility is gearing up to address power outages while urging residents to gather emergency supplies like flashlights, portable chargers, and coolers.
Recognizing the vulnerability of the homeless community, officials in Los Angeles and San Diego are conducting outreach efforts and offering temporary shelter. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is even mapping out encampments at risk and providing aerial advisories to inform the affected population.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna expressed, “Our hope is for minimal damage and, most importantly, no loss of life. However, we are preparing for the worst-case scenario and are ready to assist not only our county but also neighboring counties if needed.”
In parallel, San Diego has been working diligently to clear storm drains, ensure street accessibility, and ready equipment under the guidance of Mayor Todd Gloria.
The threat posed by Hurricane Hilary has prompted significant scheduling changes across various events. Major League Baseball has reshuffled its weekend games, converting Sunday matchups hosted by the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Diego Padres into split doubleheaders on Saturday. In the realm of Major League Soccer, the LA Galaxy and LAFC matches originally scheduled for Sunday have been postponed to later dates.