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Tropical Storm Hilary’s effects seem minimal for many Southern California residents, but others face evacuations and road closures

Tropical Storm Hilary’s effects seem minimal for many Southern California residents, but others face evacuations and road closures

Southern California residents dealt mostly with an array of inconveniences on Sunday — high water in spots, road closures and even the suspension of some DoorDash deliveries — as they braced for Tropical Storm Hilary to enter its most intense chapter that night.

“It’s just like a normal storm. It’s a little bit rainy and windy,” Lynette Paoli, a resident of the San Bernardino Mountains community of Forest Falls, said late Sunday afternoon as she looked out her windows. “I hope it’s nothing like they are saying it’s going to be. I’m praying it bypasses us.”

The inland mountains and deserts, however, were expected to receive the storm’s most punishing rain and strong winds on Sunday night and into Monday morning, and flash-flood warnings and evacuation orders were in effect.

Other Southern California counties were also expected to receive heavier rainfall than during the daylight hours, the National Weather Service said.

The rain is likely to move out around noon on Monday.

Just how much damage could result from the region’s first tropical storm in 84 years was anyone’s guess. Emergency officials in Riverside County took note of previous large storms, but Shane Reichardt, a spokesman for the Emergency Management Department, indicated this one was different.

“There is no history to know what to expect,” he said.

Albert Antonio tries to navigate Avenue R in Palmdale, CA, as tropical storm Hilary sweeps through Southern California Sunday, August 20, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

A Stater Brothers shopper races to her car in rain from Tropical Storm Hilary in Beaumont on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

People brave the downpour from Tropical Storm Hilary as they exit Disneyland Resort in Anaheim on Sunday, August 20, 2023. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Diane Sprouse and Robert Morse keep dry as they watch the men’s semifinals at the AVP Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open on Sunday, August 20, 2023.
(Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

A plow clears debris from Sierra Highway in Palmdale, CA, as tropical storm Hilary sweeps through Southern California Sunday, August 20, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

A woman who only identified herself as a long-time Silverado Canyon resident doesn’t let a few puddles get in her way as she playfully makes her way to her car in Silverado Canyon on Sunday, August 20, 2023. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

High winds and rain ripped a branch off a tree and onto a home on Hoffer Drive as a Riverside County Fire fighter from Engine 54 assess the damage from Tropical Storm Hilary in Banning on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

People brave the downpour from Tropical Storm Hilary as walk down Harbor Boulevard near the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim on Sunday, August 20, 2023. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

A woman watches as as large waves, caused by Tropical Storm Hilary, crash through the pilings beneath the Huntington Beach Pier in Huntington Beach on Sunday, August 20, 2023. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The mural on the side of Uptown Cigar and Smoke keep eyes storm clouds from Tropical Storm Hilary as it passes over in Yucaipa on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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As a precaution, evacuation warnings were issued for burn scar areas in Beaumont, Banning, Hemet and Highland Springs, as well as other spots around the region.

Oak Glen Road, in an area of the San Bernardino Mountains that is prone to damage from natural disasters, washed out between Oak Mountain and Pine Bench Road, trapping several motorists. A shelter-in-place order was issued Sunday night for Forest Falls and residents of Oak Glen Road from Casa Blanca Street to Harris Road because of mud and debris blocking the road. Separately an evacuation order was issued in Yucaipa.

S.B. County Sheriff: An evacuation order is now in affect for the residents of the Serrano Square neighborhood, south of Oak Glen Road and east of 2nd Street, in Yucaipa, CA. pic.twitter.com/wcs4EqTBV6

— San Bernardino County Sheriff (@sbcountysheriff) August 21, 2023

Transportation troubles continued Sunday night, Caltrans said, with Highway 395 closed between Adelanto and Kramer Junction because of mud and debris on the road. And a 7.2-mile stretch of the 10 Freeway was closed in both directions by flooding in the Palm Springs area.

Check Caltrans District 8 social media for updates on the closures.

RIVCO: I-10 in Cathedral City from Gene Autry to Bob Hope Dr. is closed due to flooding and debris on the highway. Unknown duration of clear. #Caltrans8 @CaltransHQ pic.twitter.com/WkiYXGCEbU

— Caltrans District 8 (@Caltrans8) August 21, 2023

 

Swift currents of water could be seen flowing down streets in the Coachella Valley. And the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Desert flooded.

What started out as a hurricane in Mexico decreased to a tropical storm that moved slightly to the east as it crossed into the southwestern United States on Sunday. Residents remarked on the sauna-like conditions.

“It feels like Florida. It feels icky and sticky,” Keisha Washington said around noon as she loaded up on water at the Costco on Day Street in Moreno Valley.

By afternoon, roadways in Orange County and the Inland Empire were beginning to see major effects from the storm hammering the region, with debris and flooding making traveling in several areas difficult.

A group of people was escorted away from their trapped vehicle in Devore, a remote neighborhood of San Bernardino located in the city’s northwestern arm along the 215 freeway.

San Bernardino County Fire Battalion Chief Mike McClintock said they became trapped in mud when they tried to drive over a water-logged area near Kenwood Avenue and the 15 freeway. Firefighters picked up the group in a fire truck and ferried them away.

That was one example of the madness playing out on Southern California’s roadways. McClintock said the volume of crashes his firefighters were responding to was far higher than normal.

A fast moving flash flood washed out Oak Glen Road in the San Bernardino Mountains between Oak Mountain and Pine Bench Road, trapping several motorists as Tropical Storm Hilary moved into the area on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (Photo by Loudlabs) 

“Our fire engines have been exceptionally busy,” he said. “Any of our freeways — you name it. Everybody’s been very busy. We’re seeing two to three times our normal calls. We have seen an incredible amount of traffic collisions on our freeways.”

In Orange County, Caltrans shut down portions of Pacific Coast Highway between Warner Avenue and Seapoint Street after some flooding and dangerous driving officials said they observed on Sunday.

“We were trying to prevent any accidents from occurring there,” said Sheila Fortenberry, a spokeswoman for Caltrans. “We’re trying to keep that area safe. People are pretending like it’s not raining.”

Other areas of flooding were reported on the 55 Freeway at Dyer Street in Santa Ana by the afternoon, though overall Fortenberry said officials had not seen catastrophic flooding across the area yet. Still, Caltrans was preparing for waters to rise everywhere throughout the night as Hilary got closer to the Los Angeles area.

She said just in Orange County, Caltrans had 96 workers out on storm patrol, with 20 on standby. They also had 10 dump trucks ready to deploy to clear local roadways.

There were already several reports of swift water rescue operations. In Pomona, a Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter lifted a person out of the surging San Antonio Creek storm channel at around 5:30 p.m., officials said.

The victim was sent to Chino Valley Medical Center. Their current condition was unknown.

Power outages due to equipment problems in Orange County neighborhoods were reported in Fullerton, Costa Mesa, Orange, Santa Ana and La Habra. Less than 800 residents were affected.

Beginning early Sunday morning, some 1,700 people were affected by the 29 outages in Los Angeles County. Storm conditions and equipment problems affected West Covina, Torrance and unincorporated areas within the county. Corona residents suffered power outages, as did residents of Chino and Ontario.

Parents and students can check with their schools, colleges and universities on the status of classes on Monday.Some districts — including Los Angeles Unified, Pasadena Unified, Rialto Unified, Fontana Unified, Bear Valley Unified and Redlands Unified — announced closures. Anaheim schools and Mater Dei High canceled in-person classes for Monday,

The storm also altered plans for fun-seekers.

Knott’s Berry Farm and other amusement parks never opened Sunday; the Disneyland Resort announced that its parks were closing a couple of hours early.

The Manhattan Beach Open, the premier stop on the AVP pro volleyball tour, found itself saddled with a historic occurrence — not just an August rainstorm, but a first-ever tropical storm warning hovering over the event.

“Not every day you get a tropical storm in Manhattan Beach for the MB Open, the biggest volleyball tournament of them all,” said Rob Christie of Manhattan Beach, who braved the rain to join fans in the jammed stands. “So it’s kind of an adventure to be here.”

The usual swimsuits and sandals that filled the stands at the popular annual beachfest were joined by rain gear and umbrellas.

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Rainfall totals in Orange County were less than an inch to almost an inch and two-thirds, with 1.41 inches in Garden Grove and .98 in Anaheim as of 6 p.m. The highest rainfall was seen in Silverado Canyon, with 2.05 inches and 1.61 in Brea, said weather service meteorologist Brandt Maxwell.

For the Inland Empire, rainfall varied with 1.22 reported in Temecula and .87 inches in San Bernardino. The Palm Desert area experienced some of the heaviest rainfall, with 2.92 inches, which is extreme for a desert location, according to Maxwell.

Rainfall also varied in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles County, with 1.29 inches in Pasadena and .76 in Alhambra.

Although officials warned of a possibly “catastrophic” storm, shoppers in at least one location were not lined up out the doors of stores as they did during the COVID-19 pandemic to purchase water, toilet paper and paper towels.

In Moreno Valley, 15-year-old Christian Washington labored to push a flatbed cart to his mother’s car. The cart was loaded with 16 cases of 40-count bottles of water — that’s 640 bottles — that Keisha Washington had just purchased at the Costco in that city.

“We want to be prepared, just in case,” said Washington, 39, who for good measure bought five cases of Capri Sun fruit juice.

Even though there were no long lines, shoppers nevertheless were mindful that Hilary could be troublesome. Employees lugged pallet after pallet of water onto the sales floor, and shoppers would grab a case or two. (Or 16).

A few shoppers interviewed said they were doing mostly regular shopping, with maybe an extra case of water thrown into the cart.

Jose Lopez and wife Maria Lopez of Moreno Valley were also doing their normal shopping Sunday, except they purchased a rechargeable flashlight and a tripod-mounted LED light.

“No panicking,” said another shopper as she loaded two cases of water into her car.

Two other shoppers, John Valdivia and Jessica Valdivia of Moreno Valley, rushed to load their car while the rain held.

“It’s the calm before the storm,” Jessica Valdivia said, about a half hour before the wind picked up and the sky fell.

Staff writers Mona Darwish, Teresa Liu and Brady MacDonald contributed to this report.