Post-Tropical Storm Hilary blazes towards Nevada after soaking Southern California

The Southern region of California experienced heavy rainfall and flash floods as Tropical Storm Hilary made its way from the coast to the desert resort city of Palm Springs and the inland mountains. Rescuers were forced to retrieve several individuals from swollen rivers amidst the deluge. By early Monday, the remnants of the storm reached as far north as Oregon and Idaho, threatening these areas with potential flooding. Southern Californians found themselves grappling with flooded roads, mudslides, and fallen trees, resulting in great disruption and damage.

One resident, Maura Taura, expressed her relief that her family remained unharmed after a massive tree, reaching a height of three stories, crashed down on her daughter’s two cars. Fortunately, the tree missed their house in the Sun Valley region of Los Angeles. However, the surprises were not limited to the storm’s impact, as an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 struck near Ojai, about 80 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Although smaller aftershocks followed, no major damage or injuries were immediately reported.

The storm initially reached landfall in the sparsely populated Baja California Peninsula on Sunday, about 150 miles south of Ensenada. Sadly, one person drowned in the storm’s destructive wake. The storm then continued its journey through Tijuana, an area prone to mudslides, posing a threat to the improvised homes that dot the hillsides just south of the U.S. border. This tropical storm, named Hilary, marked the first time in over eight decades that Southern California experienced such severe weather conditions, with some areas experiencing rainfall surpassing half of the average annual volume. Notably, Palm Springs received nearly 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) of rainfall by Sunday evening.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami downgraded Hilary to a post-tropical storm in its Monday advisory, yet cautioning about the persistence of life-threatening and locally catastrophic flooding across portions of the southwestern U.S. Coastal warnings, however, were no longer in effect. Forecasters warned of the imminent danger of dangerous flash floods across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Fire officials even had to rescue 13 people from knee-deep water in a homeless encampment along the rising San Diego River. Additionally, several roadways became impassable due to flooding and debris, leaving stranded vehicles in standing water. Crews worked diligently to pump floodwaters out of the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.

Sunday set a new record as the wettest day in San Diego’s history, with 1.82 inches (4.6 centimeters) of rainfall according to the National Weather Service. The previous record dated back to Aug. 17, 1977, when the region experienced 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) of rain following Hurricane Doreen. As a result of the extreme weather conditions, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school system in the country, announced the closure of all campuses on Monday, aligning with other districts across the region. Furthermore, San Diego schools postponed the commencement of their academic year from Monday to Tuesday.

In the midst of the havoc, the Palm Springs Police Department advised citizens that their emergency response lines were temporarily down. In case of emergencies, they encouraged individuals to text 911 or seek assistance from the nearest police or fire station. Despite the storm’s projected weakening as it continued its northward movement over California and into Nevada, Richard Pasch, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, warned that heavy rain and strong winds were still anticipated.

While the skies were gradually clearing on Monday in California, the National Weather Service issued flood warnings for the Mount Charleston area west of Las Vegas. Further north, in southeastern Oregon and the west-central mountains of Idaho, there was a particularly heightened risk of flooding with forecasted unprecedented levels of precipitation on Monday morning. Simultaneously, the National Hurricane Center kept a watchful eye on a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico, indicating an 80% chance of it developing into a tropical disturbance or tropical storm prior to reaching the western Gulf coastline on Tuesday. They advised residents along the northern Mexican and Texan coasts to monitor the situation closely, as tropical storm watches or warnings might be issued later on Monday.

As questions arise regarding a potential connection between the tropical storm and the earthquake experienced in Southern California, investigations are ongoing. With a team of reporters covering these developments, Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg, Florida; Ignacio Martinez in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Mark Stevenson in Mexico City; Eugene Garcia in San Diego; Ryan Sun and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles; and Walter Berry in Phoenix contributed to the Associated Press report.

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