Southern California Braces for Historic Flooding as Tropical Storm Hilary Hits
Southern California officials are preparing for the potential of serious damage from Tropical Storm Hilary, which unleashed furious flash floods east and west of Los Angeles in its historic arrival on Sunday. The storm has prompted California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency for much of Southern California, with flash flood warnings in effect until at least 3 a.m. Monday. Mountain and desert areas could see 5 to 10 inches of rain, an amount that is typically seen in a year in the deserts.
The storm initially passed through Mexico's Baja California peninsula, where it caused flash flooding and swept away some roads. Images on social media showed raging torrents gushing down city streets, turning them into rivers. It then crossed the border into the United States on Sunday afternoon, making it the first tropical storm to hit San Diego County and the first to pelt Los Angeles County since 1939. The storm triggered serious flooding in San Bernardino County, prompting evacuations of towns in the mountains and valleys. In Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles, the National Weather Service warned of life-threatening flooding as up to 2 inches of rain fell within two hours.
President Joe Biden has ordered federal agencies to move personnel and supplies into the region to assist with response and recovery efforts. Despite this, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass expressed concern that people may become complacent if they are initially unharmed by the storm. She warned that later bands of the storm could swing back around and surprise those who are not prepared.
The storm poses a significant risk to Los Angeles County's 75,000 homeless people, as well as hillside canyons and areas recently affected by wildfires. As a precautionary measure, the two largest school districts in the state, Los Angeles and San Diego, have canceled school on Monday.
Tropical Storm Hilary has also brought flooding rains to southern California and Nevada. Forecasters have warned of potentially historic and catastrophic conditions as the storm moves inland. Many areas in the storm's path are not accustomed to the type of rainfall associated with a tropical storm. Some desert areas could see 12 to 25 centimeters of rain, which is an entire year's worth in those regions.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency, and President Joe Biden has offered assistance to California, Nevada, and Arizona. Flights have been canceled in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas, while schools in Los Angeles and San Diego have closed. This is the first tropical storm to strike California since 1977.
The heavy rain has caused severe flooding in parts of Southern California, and forecasters are warning of potentially historic amounts of rain. The storm is moving quickly and has already caused significant damage. Palm Springs, usually a dry area, received the most significant rainfall it has ever seen in just a 60-minute period. Floodwaters have rushed through the Los Angeles River, which is typically nearly dry.
The storm made landfall in Mexico's Baja California peninsula on Sunday, causing flash flooding and resulting in one death. The storm has been especially dangerous in low-income areas with poorly built housing. Mexican authorities have evacuated nearly 1,900 people to shelters and warned of the risks associated with the storm.
Tropical Storm Hilary is a reminder of the increasing power and frequency of storms due to climate change. Scientists have warned that storms are becoming more powerful as the world warms. Officials are urging the public to take the storm seriously and follow the guidance of state and local officials to stay safe.
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