Tropical Storm Hilary makes landfall in Southern California but Bay Area spared

Tropical Storm Hilary makes landfall in Southern California but Bay Area spared


Tropical Storm Hilary began barreling across California on Sunday, with experts forecasting “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” in the days ahead. As Hilary approached the Golden State on Saturday, Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency, deploying 7,500 first responders — like local firefighters, soldiers from the National Guard, and swift water rescue teams — across the state.

It’s the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years. And by Sunday morning, parts of the state were already feeling its impact — with wind speeds already at 65 miles per hour.

In Los Angeles County, rain had already covered the roadways by 9 a.m, with the aqueducts on I-5’s Grapevine gushing with water. Parts of Riverside County were placed under an evacuation order a few hours later, according to the area’s emergency management department — and San Bernardino County sent out its own evacuation order Saturday night, encouraging residents in five communities to leave their homes ahead of the storm. Just north of Los Angeles, Caltrans District 7 said heavy rain had triggered a mudslide on a highway in Palmdale.

Flash flooding was soon reported in Death Valley National Park — typically home to the driest region in North America. By 1 p.m., most roads within the park were closed due to flooding damage, including State Route 190.

“Water is already flowing across roads in the park. It will get worse, and roads will be impassable. Emergency services probably won’t be able to respond,” according to an alert on the park’s website.

Throughout the day, flash flood warnings were also issued across Los Angeles and San Diego Counties, hitting Jacumba, Boulevard, Mount Laguna, and Descanso by Sunday afternoon. At just past 1 p.m., San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria proclaimed a local emergency, stating Tropical Storm Hilary was threatening “conditions of disaster and extreme peril,” including widespread flooding, wood damage, and debris flows across the city.

“I ask San Diegans to stay home and stay safe,” said Gloria in a tweet on Sunday afternoon.

The forecasts were still evolving on Sunday afternoon. Ten inches of rain were expected in some parts of California and Nevada, while the National Weather Storm Prediction Center warned of possible tornadoes toward Palm Springs. Hundreds of flights had been cancelled by 1:30 p.m., including 119 planning to depart from San Diego International Airport alone.

While the Bay Area isn’t expected to be affected by the storm, residents are grappling with fallout from another natural disaster: fires burning in the northern part of the state, on top of the Plant Fire in the south. At higher elevations, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District warned the skies could turn hazy, and that some areas may smell of smoke. The air quality is expected to drop to low-moderate levels on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index.

Staff reporter Grace Hase contributed to this story.