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Hilary Has Passed Over Baja California, Southern California

The storm Hilary made landfall on August 20 in Baja California, then continued into Southern California. High winds and significant rainfall for the time of year hit both San Diego and Los Angeles. This is the first time such a storm has hit these two cities since 1939.

Pacific Path of Hilary

NASA image of Hurricane Hilary. Credited to the MODIS Rapid Response Team.

A tropical storm named Hilary formed in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico’s southern coast on August 16. It began to move in a north-westerly direction. This brought it onto a trajectory toward the Baja California peninsula. Hilary became a Category 1 hurricane as of 8 AM PST on August 17, with wind speeds of approximately 85 miles per hour. The hurricane was a Category 4 by 2 AM PST on August 18, with wind speeds of approximately 140 miles per hour.

The U.S. Mission to Mexico released a Weather Alert about Hurricane Hilary for Baja California and Baja California Sur. The Alert warned that the National Hurricane Center was projecting Hilary to make landfall on early August 20 close to Bahia Tortugas, Baja California Sur. This would probably be in a northerly direction with wind speeds of about a 100 miles per hour. The Mission also noted that the Government of Mexico had released a hurricane warning for areas in Baja California as well as a Tropical Storm Watch for the nearby mainland.

The Mission advised U.S. Citizens in the area to take precautions and watch for alerts, as well as prepare for actions from local authorities and the possibility of needing shelter. Furthermore, the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana would only be providing emergency services on August 21.

Landfall of Hilary and Ensenada

Hilary made landfall in Baja California on August 20 as a tropical storm approximately 150 miles south of Ensenada. The Municipal Government of Ensenada warned the population that the tropical storm would reach the urban center by 2 PM PST that day. According to Mayor Armando Ayala Robles, the storm would reach wind speeds up to 70 kilometers per hour (approximately 43.5 miles per hour). Considerable flooding was also expected.

The municipal government warned the populace to engage in preventative measures. Residents were told to be ready to evacuate if necessary and only take necessities. They were to remain in certain zones, and stay away from poles, electricity cables, and heavily flooded areas. Government personnel would be available for assistance, and shelters would be provided.

Furthermore, residents were told to await the authorities’ determination to return to flooded areas. Support would be provided in the case of damage to homes, and people were warned to keep away from damaged walls. Finally, any food or drink contaminated by black flood water was to be avoided.

Thoroughfares in and near Ensenada were endangered by Hilary, resulting in the municipal government warning locals to avoid driving if possible. There were landslides due to the rainfall on the Trans-peninsular highway close to El Zacaton, for instance.

California Response to Hilary

California Army National Guard Photo. Credited to the Cal Guard website.

Governor Gavin Newsom of California declared a state of emergency for the impending arrival of Hilary on August 19. This state of emergency was declared by the Governor while he was in San Diego alongside National Guard members. The purpose was to pave the way for a response to the storm, as well as recovery efforts, through mobilizing resources. Newsom’s office ordered the deployment of over 7,500 personnel. He also communicated with federal authorities.

The Office of the Governor’s website listed several areas the California state government was preparing for Hilary. The governor’s office saw to the activation of the State Operations Center for monitoring storm activity and coordinate responses across agencies. The Medical Health and Coordination Center was likewise activated, and had alerted medical centers to prepare. A variety of resources, including the National Guard, were “prepositioned” for rapid response.

Caltrans manpower was mobilized in order to see to roadway safety. The California Department of Social Services was working with local agencies to see that vulnerable individuals had access to services. The state government was also coordinating with major private companies, ranging from retailers to fuel providers, to ensure availability of vital goods and services. State parks and beaches were ordered to close.

Hilary in Southern California

Los Angeles River after Hilary. Credited to photographer Gene Blevins. Sourced from The Orange County Register.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria signed an emergency proclamation on August 20 as tropical storm Hilary approached the city. Lasting for a minimum of seven days, the proclamation allows the state to respond effectively and request state and local aid. The emergency proclamation noted that closures had been announced for non-emergency city operations such as swimming pools and libraries. Services such as trash collection were expected to have possible delays.

A website specifically for the residents needing information and support during and after the storm has been created. A map was also provided for residents to track power outages. San Diego County also issued an emergency proclamation, though they did so on August 19.

“I ask San Diego to continue to be vigilant- make sure water has a place to go around your property, prepare for power outages, steer clear of downed powerlines and report them to 9-1-1, and avoid any unnecessary travel,” Mayor Gloria asserted.

He thanked the Governor of California for the assistance the state was providing.

The City of San Francisco received approximately 1.82 inches of rainfall on August 20 according to NWS San Diego.

Tropical Storm Hilary reached the vicinity of Los Angeles at approximately 8 PM PST on August 20. At that time, its wind speed was around 50 miles per hour.  Downtown Los Angeles received 2.48 inches of rainfall.

As of August 21, Hilary has been downgraded to a Post-Tropical Cyclone. It has been passing over Nevada with a wind speed of approximately 35 miles per hour, and will cross into Oregon and Idaho.

The last storm of such a magnitude to reach the region around San Diego and Los Angeles was in 1939.

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