Hurricane Hilary has displayed a slight decrease in strength while maintaining its status as a major hurricane as it approaches the Baja California Peninsula.
Despite this weakening trend, the formidable weather system is projected to bring substantial rainfall and strong gusts of wind to various areas in the Southwestern United States from Sunday through Monday.
Remarkably, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued a Tropical Storm Warning for portions of Southern California, marking the first instance of such an advisory in the region’s history. Hurricane Hilary is currently classified as a Category 3 storm, still holding its position as a major hurricane. Positioned less than 250 miles to the west of the southern tip of Baja California, the storm is heading on a north-northwest trajectory with sustained wind speeds peaking at 125 mph.
As the hurricane interacts with land and cooler waters over the upcoming weekend, experts anticipate its continued weakening. The forecast suggests that by Sunday, Hilary will revert to tropical storm status before transitioning to a post-tropical system as it traverses the western United States. Nevertheless, its impact remains significant, with predictions of severe flooding and high-velocity winds spanning across the Baja California Peninsula and portions of the Southwestern U.S.
A substantial stretch of the western coast of the Baja Peninsula is currently under various warnings, including Tropical Storm Warning, Hurricane Warning, and Hurricane Watch. Southern California’s coastal regions, extending from the Mexican border to areas like Point Mugu and Catalina Island, are also under Tropical Storm Warnings.
Anticipated hurricane-force winds are set to lash the western and central coasts of the Baja Peninsula from Saturday into Sunday morning. These conditions will extend as tropical storm conditions push into Southern California on Sunday. With Hilary’s approach, Southern California can expect widespread heavy rainfall, with some inland spots potentially experiencing up to 10 inches of precipitation. This deluge could lead to flooding, especially in areas previously affected by wildfires.
Rainfall from Hurricane Hilary is projected to infiltrate the Southwestern U.S. on Saturday night and intensify throughout Sunday, peaking as the storm’s center passes over Southern California during the afternoon and evening hours. As the storm progresses northward, the heaviest rain will recede by Sunday night, making way for clearing skies on Monday morning.
Gusty winds and perilous marine conditions are also on the horizon as Hilary’s impact draws near. The storm’s journey began on August 16, 2023, when it was designated as a named storm. Rapid intensification transformed it into a hurricane by the morning of August 17, and it further escalated into a major hurricane later that evening. Hilary now stands as the fourth major hurricane in the Pacific during the 2023 hurricane season.
The last tropical system to approach Los Angeles within a few hundred miles was Nora in 1997. Nora’s course took it from a tropical storm to a tropical depression, centering its influence along the California-Arizona border.