Southern California prepares for more floods as Tropical Storm Hilary soaks from coast to desert

by Sophia Chen

Southern California is bracing for additional floods as Tropical Storm Hilary drenches the region from the coastline to arid desert areas. Having initially inundated dry parts of Mexico, the storm made its way through Southern California, reaching from the coast to the inland mountains and deserts. Rescuers had to extract several individuals from engorged rivers, and millions are anticipating further flooding and mudslides on Monday, even though the storm is starting to lose strength.

Hilary first touched down on Mexico’s dry Baja California Peninsula on Sunday, 150 miles (250 kilometers) south of Ensenada, in a scarcely inhabited area. Tragically, one person lost their life. The storm then passed through Tijuana, where mudslides threatened makeshift homes located near the U.S. border.

Marking Southern California’s first tropical storm in 84 years, Hilary unloaded over six months’ worth of average rainfall on some locales, such as Palm Springs, where nearly 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) of rain had fallen by Sunday evening.

Authorities issued warnings of perilous flash floods in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Firefighters managed to rescue 13 people from rising water in a homeless camp near the San Diego River. At the same time, roads were washed out by rain and debris, and vehicles were left abandoned in stagnant water. Emergency response crews even had to pump floodwater out of the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.

In related news, rain from Tropical Storm Hilary inundated California and Mexico, trapping cars and flooding roads. A magnitude 5.1 earthquake also jolted Southern California as the state grappled with the tropical storm, while other parts of the U.S. set heat records.

School closures were widespread, with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, announcing that all campuses would shut on Monday. San Diego schools delayed the start of classes. Emergency communication systems were affected too, with the Palm Springs Police Department reporting 911 line disruptions.

Although the storm is expected to weaken as it moves northward into Nevada, experts, including Richard Pasch from the National Hurricane Center, are still predicting “very heavy” rain and potent winds.

Sunday also saw a 5.1 magnitude earthquake near Ojai, 80 miles (130 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles. Although there were no immediate reports of significant damage or injuries, it was widely felt and followed by minor aftershocks.

The recent meteorological events are part of a series of climate disasters impacting the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Hawaii’s Maui is still recovering from a devastating fire that killed over 100 people, marking the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century. Meanwhile, Canada is experiencing its worst fire season ever.

Tragedy struck again in Mexico, where one person drowned when a vehicle was caught in a flooded stream in Mugele, Baja Peninsula. In response, Mexican army troops and emergency personnel were dispatched to clear debris and restore electricity.

Despite warnings from officials, some residents, like 19-year-old Jack Johnson in Carlsbad, were eager to experience the storm, keeping an eye on massive waves for potential surfing.

Sunday also saw the formation of Tropical Storm Emily in the Atlantic Ocean and Tropical Storm Franklin in the eastern Caribbean, with storm watches being issued for Haiti and the Dominican Republic’s southern coasts.

This current disaster brings to mind a tropical storm that struck California in September 1939, causing widespread destruction and nearly 100 deaths.

Reporters from various locations, including Ensenada, Mexico; St. Petersburg, Florida; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Mexico City; San Diego; Los Angeles; and Phoenix contributed to this coverage.

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Sara_L89 August 21, 2023 - 2:22 pm

did anyone else feel the earthquake too?? like the storm wasn’t enough. 2023 is turning out to be a wild weather year.

Tom Henson August 22, 2023 - 12:07 am

Wow, first tropical storm in 84 years? history in the making, scary stuff though. Hope all the emergency crews and volunteers stay safe. Thank you for what you do!

Mike T. August 22, 2023 - 1:38 am

Southern California really got hit hard. Im in Palm Springs and the rain is nonstop. Our desert isnt used to this. prayers for everyone affected.

Jenny Smith August 22, 2023 - 8:56 am

This storms crazy! never seen anything like it before. schools are closed, roads are a mess. Stay safe out there people

BrendaK August 22, 2023 - 9:13 am

Why were the surfers out there?? That’s just irresponsible, can’t they see the danger? Authorities have enough to deal with without having to rescue thrill-seekers too.


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