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How Californians are preparing for Hurricane Hilary

Fox News’ Christina Coleman reports on the heavy rains and flooding predicted for California, Arizona and Nevada.

Tropical Storm Hilary made landfall over Mexico’s Baja California peninsula late Sunday morning, prompting flash flood warnings in the areas surrounding Los Angeles.

Hilary had weakened from a Category 1 hurricane to tropical storm status Sunday. The National Weather Service has predicted the storm was still likely to bring “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding to the region and cross into the southwestern U.S. as a tropical storm. 

The National Weather Service announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the Los Angeles, Long Beach and Glendale areas all under a flash flood warning until 7:45 p.m. local time.

Rainfall, considered the biggest hazard for the storm, was continuing to increase across portions of southern California, including Los Angeles basin and portions of the desert of southeastern California. The center of the storm is expected to move northward out of Baja California and into southern California over the next 18 to 24 hours, National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Michael Brennan said. 


“We continue to be very concerned for the potential for life-threatening flash flooding, potentially catastrophic impacts,” Brennan said during a NWS forecast, noting the especially high risk of flash flooding in the deserts between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Nevada. 

“Gusty east to northeast winds are beginning to strengthen along and below the coastal slopes of the mountains with gusts exceeding 40 mph at Crestwood in the San Diego County mountains and Fremont Canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains,” NWS San Diego wrote on X, formerly Twitter, earlier Sunday. 


As of 8 a.m. Pacific time, Hilary was located about 220 miles south-southeast of San Diego, the National Hurricane Center reported. Hilary had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and was moving northwest at 25 mph. 

The Mexican cities of Ensenada and Tijuana remained directly in the tropical storm’s path, and meteorologists warned that despite weakening, the storm remained treacherous.

A previous advisory from the NWS based in Miami at 2 a.m. had said that Hilary was about 30 miles south of Punta Eugenia, Mexico, and 385 miles from San Diego, California. The maximum sustained wind speed remained unchanged at 85 mph while spreading “heavy rains” northward over the peninsula.

sandbags in front of a house

A home protected with sandbags in Seal Beach, Calif., Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

One person drowned Saturday in the Mexican town of Santa Rosalia, on the peninsula’s eastern coast, when a vehicle was swept away in an overflowing stream. Rescue workers managed to save four other people, said Edith Aguilar Villavicencio, the mayor of Mulege township.

It was not immediately clear whether officials considered the fatality related to the hurricane, but video posted by local officials showed torrents of water coursing through the town’s streets.


Forecasters said the storm was still expected to enter the history books as the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, bringing flash floods, mudslides, isolated tornadoes, high winds and power outages. The forecast prompted authorities to issue an evacuation advisory for Santa Catalina Island, urging residents and beachgoers to leave the tourist destination 23 miles off the coast.

sandbag trenches in California

In anticipation of Hurricane Hilary, residents fill sandbags at Wildwood Park, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in San Bernardino,  (Watchara Phomicinda/The Orange County Register via AP)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed an emergency declaration in preparation of the storms expected to come in force Sunday. 

He said 7,500 personnel were activated in southern California, with close to 4,000 California Highway Patrol members, 2,000 Caltran workers and mutual aid across the region. Newsom warned residents to take seriously any alerts of flash floods, lighting and possibility of tornadoes.  

In Tijuana, fire department head Rafael Carrillo voiced the fear at the back of everyone’s mind in the border city of 1.9 million people, particularly residents who live in homes on steep hillsides.

California before Hurricane Hilary

Birds fly over the pier before the arrival of Hurricane Hilary, in Ensenada, Mexico, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.  (AP Photo/Alex Cossio)

“If you hear noises, or the ground cracking, it is important for you to check it and get out as fast as possible, because the ground can weaken and your home could collapse,” Carrillo said.

Tijuana ordered all beaches closed Saturday, and set up a half dozen storm shelters at sports complexes and government offices.

Mexico’s navy evacuated 850 people from islands off the Baja coast, and deployed almost 3,000 troops for emergency operations. In La Paz, the picturesque capital of Baja California Sur state on the Sea of Cortez, police patrolled closed beaches to keep swimmers out of the whipped-up surf.


Authorities in Los Angeles scrambled to get the homeless off the streets and into shelters, and officials ordered all state beaches in San Diego and Orange counties closed.

Across the region, municipalities ran out of free sandbags and grocery shelves emptied out as residents stockpiled supplies. The U.S. National Park Service closed California’s Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve to keep visitors from becoming stranded amid flooding.

Major League Baseball rescheduled three Sunday games in Southern California, moving them to Saturday as part of split doubleheaders, and SpaceX delayed the launch of a satellite-carrying rocket from a base on California’s central coast until at least Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Danielle Wallace is a reporter for Fox News Digital covering politics, crime, police and more. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @danimwallace. 

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