Tropical Storm Hilary's Unleashed Fury: Devastation Strikes Southern California


Tropical Storm Hilary's Unleashed Fury: Devastation Strikes Southern California

LOS ANGELES - The anticipation of potential overnight havoc caused by Tropical Storm Hilary had Southern California authorities on high alert. The storm's furious flash floods, which struck both east and west of Los Angeles, left officials preparing for possible severe damage after its historic impact a day prior.


Even though the National Weather Service had downgraded the former hurricane to a tropical depression, California Governor Gavin Newsom had already declared a state of emergency for much of Southern California. This was a significant move, given that the region is more accustomed to drought than intense storms. Flash flood warnings were in effect until at least 3 a.m. (1000 GMT) on Monday.


Forecasts indicated that mountain and desert areas could receive an unprecedented 5 to 10 inches (12 to 25 cm) of rain. To put this in perspective, these desert regions typically receive this amount of rainfall over an entire year.


Prior to its arrival in Southern California, the storm traversed Mexico's Baja California peninsula, where Pacific hurricanes are known to impact. Tragically, it claimed at least one life in Mexico due to flash flooding and reportedly washed away roads.


The deluge turned city streets into raging torrents, as evident from social media images that depicted urban areas transformed into river-like channels. Sunday afternoon marked the storm's entry into the United States, hitting San Diego county as the first tropical storm ever recorded in the area. This was followed by the storm's arrival in Los Angeles county, marking the first time since 1939 that such severe weather had impacted the region, resulting in widespread flooding.


San Bernardino county, located to the east of Los Angeles, was compelled to issue evacuation orders for towns in the mountains and valleys. Social media posts illustrated torrents of water, mud, rocks, and trees inundating these areas.


In the more densely populated Ventura county northwest of Los Angeles, the National Weather Service issued warnings about life-threatening flooding as nearly 2 inches (5 cm) of rain fell within a mere two-hour span.


Reacting swiftly, U.S. President Joe Biden directed federal agencies to deploy personnel and resources to the affected region, aligning with local officials' preparations that had been underway for days.


Despite the initial impact of the storm, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass remained concerned about potential complacency among residents. She feared that people might underestimate the situation, only to be caught off guard when later bands of the storm circled back, potentially causing more damage to those unprepared.


Mayor Bass expressed her concern during a Sunday news briefing, saying, "We know that it could get much worse. My concern is that people will be a little dismissive and go out when we need people to stay at home, to stay safe."


Officials highlighted the vulnerability of Los Angeles county's 75,000 homeless individuals, along with hillside canyons and areas recently ravaged by wildfires. As a precautionary measure, the two largest school districts in the state, located in Los Angeles and San Diego, canceled classes for Monday.


The storm left residents stunned in the nearby town of Rancho Mirage, where water and debris overwhelmed closed roads. At least one pickup truck became stranded in water that nearly reached the top of its bed. A local resident, Sean Julian, 54, shared his amazement, stating, "It's quite amazing. I've never seen anything like this. I'm seeing a lot more trees down. And there's a big tree that just fell over there, and I probably shouldn't be out here."


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