Hilary Pushes Into Nevada After Drenching California
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LOS ANGELES — Tropical Storm Hilary drenched Southern California from the coast to the desert resort city of Palm Springs and inland mountains, forcing rescuers to pull several people from swollen rivers.
By early Aug. 21, remnants of the storm that first brought soaking rains to Mexico’s arid Baja California peninsula and the border city of Tijuana threatened Nevada and as far north as Oregon and Idaho with flooding.
Southern Californians were battling flooded roads, mudslides and downed trees.
“Thank God my family is OK,” Maura Taura said after a three-story-tall tree crashed down on her daughter’s two cars but missed the family’s house in the Sun Valley area of Los Angeles.
Hilary is just the latest major weather or climate disaster to wreak havoc across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Hawaii’s island of Maui is still reeling from a blaze that killed more than 100 people and ravaged the historic town of Lahaina, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. Firefighters in Canada are battling that nation’s worst fire season on record.
Crews on SR-98 near Calexico. Caltrans staff is suggesting you to stay home. Please drive with caution if you must go out. pic.twitter.com/G2V6i0tsXx — Caltrans San Diego (@SDCaltrans) August 20, 2023
Southern California got another surprise Aug. 20 as an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 hit near Ojai, about 80 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was felt widely and was followed by smaller aftershocks. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injury, according to a dispatcher with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
Tropical Storm Hilary first made landfall in Baja California on Aug. 20 in a sparsely populated area about 150 miles south of Ensenada. One person drowned. It then moved through mudslide-prone Tijuana, threatening the improvised homes that cling to hillsides just south of the U.S. border.
Cars maneuver around a plow clearing debris along a flooded Sierra Highway in Palmdale, Calif., Aug. 20. (Richard Vogel/Associated Press)
The first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, Hilary dropped more than half an average year’s worth of rain on some areas, including Palm Springs, which saw more than 3 inches of rain by the evening of Aug. 20.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami downgraded Hilary to a post-tropical storm in its early Aug. 21 advisory, but warned that “continued life-threatening and locally catastrophic flooding” was expected over portions of the southwestern U.S. on Aug. 21. All coastal warnings were discontinued.
A vehicle drives through a flooded freeway entrance in Palmdale, Calif., Aug. 20. (Richard Vogel/Associated Press)
Forecasters warned of dangerous flash floods across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, and fire officials rescued 13 people from knee-deep water in a homeless encampment along the rising San Diego River. Meanwhile, rain and debris washed out some roadways and people left their cars stranded in standing water. Crews pumped floodwaters out of the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.
A motorist removes belongings from his vehicle after becoming stuck in a flooded street Aug. 20 in Palm Desert, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
Aug. 21 was the wettest day on record in San Diego, with 1.82 inches, the NWS said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. The previous record was on Aug. 17, 1977, when 1.8 inches of rain fell in the area post-Hurricane Doreen.
“We basically blew all of our previous rainfall records out of the water,” National Weather Service meteorologist Elizabeth Adams in San Diego told the Associated Press. In Palm Springs, the inundation shattered the daily record of 0.21 inch set in 2003 with 3.18 inches falling Aug. 20.
The center of Hilary passed over downtown Los Angeles at 7 p.m. Aug. 20, according to the regional weather office, which called it “a day for the ages” in Southern California.
Despite the deluge, Los Angeles Fire Chief Kristin Crowley said no significant injuries or damages were reported.
City Council President Paul Krekorian told a news conference that “Los Angeles was tested but we came through it, and we came through it with minimal impacts considering what we endured."
The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school system, said all campuses would be closed on Aug. 21, along with other districts across the region. San Diego schools postponed the first day of classes from Aug. 21 to Aug. 22.
The Palm Springs Police Department said in a statement Aug. 20 that 911 lines were down and that in the event of an emergency, residents should text 911 or reach out to the nearest police or fire station.
As skies were clearing Aug. 21 in California, the National Weather Service warned of flooding underway in the Mount Charleston area west of Las Vegas. Forecasters said the threat for flooding in states farther north on Aug. 21 was highest across much of southeastern Oregon into the west-central mountains of Idaho “with record-breaking precipitation” forecast for Aug. 21.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center, meanwhile, were watching a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that now has an 80% chance of developing into a tropical disturbance or tropical storm before reaching the western Gulf coastline on Aug. 22. Forecasters urged people along the coast in northern Mexico and Texas to monitor the system, adding that tropical storm watches or warnings may be issued later Aug. 21.
By Christopher Weber, Damian Dovarganes and Jordi Lebrija. Lebrija reported from Ensenada, Mexico. Associated Press contributors include Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg, Fla.; Ignacio Martinez in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Mark Stevenson in Mexico City; Eugene Garcia in San Diego; Ryan Sun, Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles; and Walter Berry in Phoenix.
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