Uncharacteristic heavy rainfall has inundated parts of Southern California as Tropical Storm Hilary, originating from Mexico, makes its presence felt. Meteorologists are alerting the region to the potential for an unprecedented volume of rain, leading to severe flooding in an area known for its arid climate.
Tragedy struck in Mexico as one person lost their life due to flash flooding in the Baja California peninsula. Roads were swept away and social media showcased the extraordinary sight of water coursing through city streets turned into river-like passages.
As of Sunday afternoon, Tropical Storm Hilary exhibited sustained winds reaching 95 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour) while maintaining a speed of 37 km/h (23 mph). Such a phenomenon is a rarity in Southern California.
Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency across much of Southern California, a region more accustomed to droughts than floods. Flash flood warnings remain in effect, a stark reminder of the climate’s unpredictability.
In a move to address the crisis, President Joe Biden confirmed that emergency teams and resources had been deployed preemptively. The administration stands ready to offer further assistance upon request, emphasizing the need for vigilance and adherence to state and local guidance.
Unprecedented rain levels were anticipated across different areas. For instance, Palm Springs, typically known for its arid conditions, was projected to receive between six and 10 inches of rainfall—nearly doubling its usual annual rainfall of 4.6 inches (12 cm).
During a tour of Southern California, Newsom noted the suddenness of the storm’s impact. Floodwaters surged through the concrete channels of the Los Angeles River, rendering its usual trickle into a powerful current. Flights were canceled, sporting events rescheduled, and schools shut down in response to the impending disaster.
“Additionally, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake shook Ojai, located northwest of Los Angeles, amid the storm preparations. While no immediate injuries were reported, the event heightened the sense of urgency”.
“Tropical Storm Hilary made landfall in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, leading to the evacuation of nearly 1,900 people to shelters. Its trajectory extended towards Nevada before forecasted dissipation, posing a significant threat to low-income areas with vulnerable housing”.
“Nancy Ward, Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, expressed concern that Hilary could become one of the most impactful storms the state has experienced in over a decade. The intensified frequency of powerful storms is a troubling sign that scientists attribute to the impact of climate change”.
“Although Mexico frequently faces hurricanes on both its Pacific and Atlantic coasts, Southern California is less accustomed to their intensity. The growing strength of storms underscores the need for proactive climate change mitigation measures”.