In a breaking news update, Hurricane Hilary is rapidly approaching Mexico's Baja California peninsula as a weakened Category 1 hurricane, but still poses a significant threat with "catastrophic and life-threatening" flooding, according to the National Weather Service. The storm, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, is currently located about 90 miles south of Punta Eugenia, Mexico, and 450 miles from San Diego, California. Despite the slight decrease in wind speed, meteorologists are warning that the storm remains dangerous.
Tragically, one person has already drowned in the Mexican town of Santa Rosalia due to the storm. The victim's car was swept away in an overflowing stream, but rescue workers were able to save four other individuals. The extent to which the fatality was directly linked to Hurricane Hilary is unclear, but videos posted by local officials show streets flooded with torrents of water in Santa Rosalia.
As the storm approaches Southern California, forecasters are predicting that it could make history by being the first tropical storm to hit the region in 84 years. Flash floods, mudslides, isolated tornadoes, high winds, and power outages are all expected consequences of the storm. Due to the potential risks, an evacuation advisory has been issued for Santa Catalina Island, urging residents and beachgoers to leave the area.
Elizabeth Adams, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service San Diego office, warns that rain could fall at a rate of up to 3 inches per hour. This intense rainfall could lead to widespread and life-threatening flash floods. California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency and advised people to complete their preparations before sundown on Saturday, as it may be too late by Sunday.
The impact of Hurricane Hilary adds to a series of major climate disasters that have affected the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Last week, a devastating blaze on Hawaii's Maui Island claimed the lives of over 100 people and destroyed the historic town of Lahaina, making it the deadliest wildfire in the US in over a century. In Canada, firefighters continue to battle the nation's worst fire season on record.
In preparation for the storm, dozens of people have sought refuge at storm shelters in the popular tourist resorts of Los Cabos at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula. The region has already experienced heavy rain and wind, leading to the rescue of a family in San Jose del Cabo. Rafael Carrillo, the head of the Tijuana fire department, has urged residents living in homes on steep hillsides to remain vigilant, as the ground may weaken, leading to potential collapses.
As Hilary approaches land, Mexico's navy has evacuated 850 people from islands off the Baja coast and deployed nearly 3,000 troops for emergency operations. Tijuana has closed all beaches and established multiple storm shelters in sports complexes and government offices. Furthermore, the Mexican government has extended hurricane watches and warnings northward for parts of the Baja California peninsula, as well as issued a tropical storm watch for parts of mainland Mexico.
Hilary's impact is not limited to Mexico and southern California. Meteorologists predict “life-threatening” surf and rip currents, including waves up to 40 feet high, along Mexico's Pacific coast. The storm is expected to bring heavy rainfall to Southern California and southern Nevada, with some areas potentially receiving up to 10 inches of rain. The National Hurricane Center's deputy director, Jamie Rhome, emphasizes that the weakening trend and decrease in intensity should not make people complacent, as the threat of flooding remains.
The potential for extensive flooding has led to significant preparations and emergency measures. SpaceX delayed the launch of a satellite-carrying rocket from California's central coast until at least Monday due to the difficult conditions in the Pacific. The Mexican government has warned that the storm may hit a sparsely populated area on the western edge of the Baja peninsula before potentially making landfall between the cities of Playas de Rosarito and Ensenada in Baja California state.
As the situation unfolds, it is crucial for residents and officials to remain vigilant, heed evacuation advisories, and take necessary precautions to ensure their safety. President Joe Biden has been briefed on the latest preparedness plans and urges everyone in the path of the storm to follow the guidance of state and local officials.
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