Hilary Saturates Deserts and Inundates Highways in California; Now Targets Oregon and Idaho

by Sophia Chen
fokus keyword: Tropical Storm Hilary

Hilary, the initial tropical storm to strike Southern California in nearly a century, has thrust individuals into overflowing rivers, brought down trees on residences, and swamped roads as it headed north on Monday, sparking flood advisories and alerts in over six states.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center stated that Hilary has weakened significantly, and only remnants of the storm were passing over the Rocky Mountains. However, they cautioned that “sustained life-threatening and regionally catastrophic flooding” is anticipated in parts of the southwestern U.S., following an unprecedented deluge.

Initially making landfall on Mexico’s parched Baja California Peninsula as a hurricane, Hilary caused one fatality and extensive flooding before being downgraded to a tropical storm. This was one of the numerous potentially devastating natural occurrences impacting California on Sunday, alongside tornado warnings due to the tropical storm, wildfires, and a moderate earthquake north of Los Angeles. Fortunately, there have been no reports of fatalities, critical injuries, or extensive damage within the state, but officials emphasize that risks persist, particularly in mountainous areas susceptible to mudslides.

In the San Bernardino Mountains to the east of Los Angeles, emergency crews were laboring to remove mud that has entrapped approximately 800 residents’ homes, reported Cal Fire Battalion Chief Alison Hesterly.


  • Rain from Tropical Storm Hilary Drenches California and Mexico, Flooding Roads and Entrapping Vehicles
  • Southern California Shaken by Magnitude 5.1 Earthquake Amid Tropical Storm Soaking
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Citizens have also contributed efforts. In Oak Glen’s mountain community, Brooke Horspool aided in excavating a home encased by nearly 4 feet (1.2 meters) of mud to free a couple, including an elderly man with health complications.

During the storm in Palm Desert on Sunday, Terry Flanigan witnessed an enormous crash and subsequently received a message from a neighbor about a 100-foot (30-meter) tall Eucalyptus tree falling onto a condo across the road. Later, she discovered it had fallen on the bed of her neighbor’s 11-year-old son, who, fortunately, was elsewhere in the house.

Flanigan described the experience as highly unsettling and shared that the family had relocated to stay with relatives while removal teams arrived to clear the debris on Monday. “The potential outcome was horrifying,” she said.

In Los Angeles’s Sun Valley region, Maura Taura expressed similar gratitude after a three-story-high tree collapsed on her daughter’s vehicles but narrowly missed the family home.

“My family is safe, and that is what matters most,” she remarked.

Hilary represents just the most recent severe weather incident to create chaos across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Hawaii’s Maui island continues to struggle with a fire that claimed over 100 lives, constituting the most lethal U.S. wildfire in over 100 years. Meanwhile, Canadian firefighters grapple with the country’s most severe fire season on record.

Hilary’s rapid expansion was facilitated by both hot water and hot air—guiding it on an unusual yet not entirely unprecedented course that poured 10 months’ worth of rain in merely a day in typically arid locations.

In Death Valley National Park, a record volume of rain equating to a full year’s worth fell in one day, leading to indefinite closure. Approximately 400 individuals were sheltered at Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells, and Panamint Springs, awaiting the roads to become navigable, said park authorities.

The rainfall on Sunday was recorded in two episodes—morning and evening—totalizing 2.2 inches (5.6 centimeters) at a National Weather Service rain gauge at Furnace Creek. If validated, this would establish the single rainiest day in the region’s history, surpassing the previous record of 1.7 inches (4.3 centimeters) set on Aug. 5, 2022.

On Monday, park officials were responding to damage to the sewer line that resulted in the release of untreated sewage into the desert near Stovepipe Wells.

MIT hurricane scientist Kerry Emanuel explained, “If a storm is larger, it’s going to rain longer,” and in more locations.

Scientists are still perplexed as to why certain storms, like Hilary, become vast while others remain small, he noted.

“It’s a rarity for a storm in the Eastern Pacific to attain such size as they are typically smaller and confined deep within the tropics,” commented Kristen Corbosiero, University of Albany atmospheric scientist and Pacific hurricane expert.

San Diego recorded its rainiest day in history on Sunday with 1.82 inches (4.6 centimeters), according to the NWS, on a platform known as X, previously called Twitter. The last record was on Aug. 17, 1977, when post-Hurricane Doreen, 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) of rain was registered.

National Weather Service meteorologist Elizabeth Adams in San Diego told The Big Big News, “Our previous rainfall records were utterly shattered.”

The damp conditions might temporarily forestall wildfires in Southern California and parts of the Sierra Nevada, but considerable rain is unlikely in the regions most vulnerable to fire, stated University of California, Los Angeles, climate scientist Daniel Swain in an online briefing Monday.

In Rancho Mirage, the rising San Diego River brought the water up to knee level in a homeless encampment, resulting in the rescue of 13 people by fire officials. Further north, floodwater was being extracted from Eisenhower Medical Center’s emergency room.

In the desert’s Cathedral City, 20-year-old Kimberly Garnica awoke to discover her car trapped in mud outside her residence.

“The streets here clearly weren’t designed for this kind of weather,” she observed.

Steven Michael Chacon in Desert Hot Springs, located in the Coachella Valley, revealed that flooding had rendered the roads in his housing development impassable, and he expressed concern that emergency services might be unable to access residents.

“The situation is such that everyone must remain where they are, as there’s no way to enter or exit,” he stated on Monday morning.

The core of Hilary traversed downtown Los Angeles at 7 p.m. Sunday, an event the regional weather office deemed “a day for the ages” in Southern California.

“Los Angeles was challenged but emerged relatively unscathed considering the conditions we faced,” said City Council President Paul Krekorian.

The last tropical storm to wreak havoc in California occurred in September 1939, causing destruction to train tracks, homes, and boats, with nearly 100 fatalities on both land and sea.

As Hilary progressed east into Nevada, incidents of flooding were reported, power was disrupted, and around 400 households in the Mount Charleston area were subjected to a boil-water notice, due to the sole road in and out being washed away. This area is situated roughly 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Las Vegas.

Meteorologists have forecasted that the risk of flooding in the northern states will peak across a large portion of southeastern Oregon and the west-central mountains of Idaho on Monday. On Tuesday, potential thunderstorms and localized intense rains are anticipated, reported Jackson Macfarlane, a meteorologist with the weather service in Boise, Idaho.

Meanwhile, in the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Franklin was active on Monday near Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The National Hurricane Center has issued hurricane warnings for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and portions of the northern Lesser Antilles.

In response to these growing natural calamities, weather experts and government agencies are carefully monitoring the situation and advising residents to take necessary precautions and stay alert for updates.

Note: Names, quotes, and details used in this article are fictional and for illustrative purposes only. This article is not intended to depict real events or persons.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Tropical Storm Hilary

What areas were most affected by Tropical Storm Hilary?

Tropical Storm Hilary primarily affected Southern California, flooding roadways and causing damage to homes. The storm later moved towards Oregon and Idaho, and warnings were extended to more than half a dozen states, including Nevada.

How did Hilary impact Mexico before reaching the United States?

Hilary first slammed into Mexico’s arid Baja California Peninsula as a hurricane, causing one death and widespread flooding before becoming a tropical storm.

What other natural events occurred simultaneously in California?

Besides Tropical Storm Hilary, California experienced wildfires and a moderate earthquake north of Los Angeles on the same day. There were tornado warnings associated with the storm as well.

Were there any casualties or serious injuries reported in California due to the storm?

As of the time of the report, no deaths, serious injuries, or extreme damages were reported in California due to the storm. Officials did warn that risks remain, especially in mountainous regions.

What records were broken due to the rainfall from Hilary?

Death Valley National Park received a full year’s worth of rain in one day, and the rain gauge at Furnace Creek reported a potential record single-day rainfall. Sunday was also the wettest day on record in San Diego.

How did the storm affect infrastructure and residences?

The storm caused rivers to swell, toppled trees onto homes, and blocked roads with mud. Efforts were made to clear the mud and rescue trapped individuals, while some homes were endangered by falling trees.

What are the expectations for the weather system as it moves north?

While much of its intensity was lost, vestiges of the storm were heading over the Rocky Mountains. Continued life-threatening and locally catastrophic flooding was expected in the southwestern U.S., and forecasters warned of potential thunderstorms and localized torrential rains in Oregon and the west-central mountains of Idaho.

What other weather events are happening concurrently in North America?

In the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Franklin churned near Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and forecasters expected another storm could develop and reach the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Additionally, Hawaii’s Maui island was reeling from a deadly blaze, and Canada was facing its worst fire season on record.

More about Tropical Storm Hilary

  • National Hurricane Center
  • California’s Emergency Response Information
  • Death Valley National Park Official Site
  • San Diego Weather Records
  • National Weather Service Boise, Idaho
  • Tropical Storm Franklin Updates
  • U.S. Wildfire Information
  • Canadian Wildfire Services

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weatherWatcher88 August 22, 2023 - 12:56 am

Im really interested in weather and Hilary’s path is quite unusual. But why no mention of the hurricane’s international impact? Seems a bit US-centric.

JohnDoe12 August 22, 2023 - 8:56 am

Man, those floods in Cali are crazy! Never seen anything like it before. Thank God my family’s ok though. stay safe people!

NatureLover91 August 22, 2023 - 4:09 pm

This is a clear example of climate change. When will people start taking this seriously. We basically blew all of our previous rainfall records out of the water. Literally.

Steve_from_Idaho August 22, 2023 - 8:55 pm

So now it’s coming to Oregon and Idaho? We better be prepared, but i guess we’re not used to these types of storms. Hope everyone stays safe!

CaringMom August 22, 2023 - 11:35 pm

my heart goes out to all those affected, specialy the elderly and people with medical issues, who must be feeling so scared and alone right now.


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