In Mexico, reports of flash flooding emerged, claiming one life as torrents of water inundated city streets that had turned into rivers due to the storm’s force. Swept-away roads and images of city streets transformed into raging torrents circulated on social media.
Responding to the crisis, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for a significant portion of Southern California. Flash flood warnings remained in effect until early Monday morning, an unusual circumstance for a region more accustomed to drought.
Unprecedented Rainfall Predicted Meteorologists projected that mountainous and desert regions could receive 5 to 10 inches of rainfall – an amount that typically accumulates over an entire year in the arid deserts.
The storm, the first tropical one to hit Los Angeles County since 1939, led to severe flooding in the San Gabriel Mountains east of the city and northwest coastal areas in Ventura County.
Palm Springs, a region accustomed to just five inches of annual rainfall, witnessed a deluge that matched its yearly average in a single day. Over 9 million people faced flash flood alerts, with vulnerable areas including deserts and fire-scarred hillsides. The deluge overwhelmed drainage systems, muddied highways, and brought down branches from San Diego to Los Angeles.
Millions at Risk
Flash flood warnings covered more than 7 million people, encompassing downtown Los Angeles as well. The National Weather Service cautioned that parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties might experience up to 1.5 inches of rainfall per hour.
The impact was severe enough for the San Diego Unified School District to postpone the start of the school year, and the Los Angeles Unified district, the nation’s second-largest, announced closures for Monday.
The storm had weakened from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm as it made landfall over the northern Baja California Peninsula. Tragedy struck even before its arrival, as a person lost their life due to their vehicle being swept away near Santa Rosalía in Mexico. You may also Thrilling NFL Preseason Playoff Recap.
Unprecedented Weather Event
Parts of California, Nevada, and Arizona unaccustomed to heavy rain were suddenly inundated with a year’s worth of precipitation or more. Coastal areas were threatened by massive swells generated by Hilary, causing hazardous surf and rip current conditions. Death Valley experienced an astonishing surge in rainfall, receiving three times its typical August amount in just a few hours.
The onslaught led to flooding within Death Valley National Park, rendering roads impassable. The gravity of the situation prompted California’s first-ever tropical storm warning, spanning from the southern border to just north of Los Angeles.
Mayor Karen Bass, acknowledging the city’s experience with various natural disasters, urged residents to prioritize safety, stay home, and be prepared for emergencies.
Concerns for Vulnerable Areas
Given California’s focus on less rainy regions and areas recently devastated by wildfires, preparations were in place to ensure residents’ safety. Attention was particularly directed towards desert regions east of San Diego and Los Angeles, where the risk of flash flooding was substantial. You should also read Harry Kane’s Sensational Bundesliga Debut.
Hundreds of flights were canceled, professional sports events rescheduled, and school districts canceled classes. Floodwaters breached the usually calm confines of the Los Angeles River, causing unexpected havoc. In Ocotillo, a desert town, rockslides obstructed Interstate 8, causing traffic disruptions on the road to Arizona.
As Hilary made landfall earlier in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, the storm necessitated the evacuation of nearly 1,900 people to shelters, highlighting the danger, especially in low-income areas with inadequate building codes.
A Shared Challenge
The relentless force of Tropical Storm Hilary brought historic flash floods to California, a region unaccustomed to such devastation. The storm served as a reminder of the need for preparedness, adaptation, and community support in the face of natural disasters, uniting people in their shared challenge of protecting lives and property.