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Hurricane Hilary Headed Toward California

Hurricane Hilary is anticipated to make landfall in Southern California on Sunday as a rare tropical storm, triggering floods, powerful winds, and intense rainfall. This occurrence has prompted residents to evacuate, necessitated the closure of parks and beaches, and compelled first responders to ready themselves for water rescues.

Presently classified as a Category 1 storm with maximum winds reaching 80 miles per hour, Hurricane Hilary is currently moving at approximately 21 mph in a north-northwest direction. As of 5 a.m. local time on Sunday, it was located around 285 miles south-southeast of San Diego.

The hurricane is expected to weaken into a tropical storm before it reaches the United States, but it is still expected to bring impactful conditions to the Southwest, including “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding as indicated by the National Hurricane Center. The storm is forecasted to dump 3 to 6 inches of rain, potentially even up to 10 inches in certain areas, along with strong winds that could cause power outages. The most severe impacts are expected between Sunday and Monday.

To address the impending hurricane, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency across a significant portion of Southern California, aiming to bolster the region’s ability to respond to and recover from the storm.

A hurricane warning is active in Mexico, spanning from Punta Abreojos to Cabo San Quintin along the Baja California Peninsula’s western coast. The hurricane center warned of the likelihood of flash flooding and urban flooding, especially in the northern portions of the peninsula, accompanied by potential rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches.

Though Hurricane Hilary is anticipated to hit Southern California on Sunday afternoon, its effects will be felt earlier due to substantial rainfall occurring well in advance of the storm’s center.

Areas of California, Nevada, and Arizona, which typically experience limited rainfall, could suddenly receive a year’s worth of precipitation or more. Coastal regions are also expected to face life-threatening surf and rip currents due to large swells generated by the hurricane.

In response to the threat, California issued its first-ever tropical storm warning, encompassing the area from the southern border of the state to just north of Los Angeles. State officials anticipate that Hurricane Hilary could potentially become the wettest tropical cyclone in California’s history.

Nancy Ward, the director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, warned that Hilary has the potential to be one of the most devastating storms to hit California in over a decade.

Should Hurricane Hilary make landfall in California as a tropical storm, it would mark the first occurrence of such an event in nearly 84 years, based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Residents from various communities in San Bernardino County, including Oak Glen, Forest Falls, Mountain Home Village, Angelus Oaks, and Northeast Yucaipa, were ordered to evacuate as a precaution. Similarly, visitors and some residents of Catalina Island were strongly advised to leave before the storm’s arrival.

Helicopters from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office took to the skies to issue warnings to homeless individuals about the impending extreme weather.

In addition to heavy rainfall and dangerous surf, Hurricane Hilary brings the potential for isolated tornadoes in specific regions on Sunday, extending from mid-morning through the evening. These regions include the lower Colorado River Valley, Mojave Desert, and Imperial Valley areas.

Given Hilary’s approach, California is placing special emphasis on preparing residents in areas that usually receive minimal rainfall or were recently affected by wildfires. Authorities are concerned about the potential for flash flooding and debris flows in areas with burn scars from previous wildfires, as burned soil can repel water and create swift runoff.

In anticipation of the storm, Southern California residents have been offered sandbags to protect their properties. First responders are on high alert, prepared to conduct water rescues in flooded areas.

The approaching storm is also expected to cause power outages across Southern California. Southern California Edison, the electricity utility serving over 15 million people in the region, has alerted residents to the potential for outages and encouraged them to gather essential supplies.

The impending storm has already led to significant disruptions in California, including the closure of state beaches, the temporary relocation of US Navy ships and submarines in San Diego, park closures in Los Angeles County, adjustments to Major League Baseball’s schedule, and the postponement of concerts like the My Morning Jacket and Fleet Foxes performance at the Hollywood Bowl.

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