“Tropical Storm Hilary Strikes California, Unleashing Flash Floods and Disaster“
RANCHO MIRAGE, California — Tropical Storm Hilary wreaked havoc with devastating flash floods in both eastern and western regions of Los Angeles on Sunday, as it made a historic landfall in California after tearing through Mexico’s Baja California peninsula with deadly force.
In Mexico, a tragic fatality was reported amid widespread flash flooding on the peninsula, where roads were swept away, and chilling images on social media portrayed torrents of water coursing through city streets turned into rivers.
California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, declared a state of emergency for a significant portion of Southern California. Flash flood warnings were issued, extending until at least 3 a.m. (1000 GMT) on Monday, in a region more accustomed to drought than deluge.
Forecasters predicted that mountain and desert areas could receive between 5 to 10 inches of rain — an amount equivalent to what the deserts typically witness in a year.
This marked the first tropical storm to strike Los Angeles County since 1939, causing serious flooding in the San Gabriel Mountains east of the city and in coastal areas to the northwest within Ventura County.
San Bernardino County initiated evacuations in several towns nestled amidst mountains and valleys. Social media posts depicted torrents of water, mud, rocks, and trees in these areas.
In Wrightwood, California, situated approximately 70 miles (112 km) northeast of Los Angeles, heavy rainfall prompted trees and mud to cascade down a hill in Sheep Canyon. Further east in Oak Glen, which was among the five San Bernardino County towns under evacuation orders, floodwaters forcefully propelled trees, mud, and rocks into the air.
To the west, in more densely populated Ventura County, the National Weather Service issued warnings of life-threatening flooding as up to 2 inches (5 cm) of rain fell within two hours. Reports came in of vehicles stranded in the community of Spanish Hills, necessitating swift water rescues by firefighters.
Governor Newsom, touring Southern California, revealed that Palm Springs, a desert oasis located about 100 miles (160 km) east of Los Angeles, was dry when he departed on Sunday. However, within just one hour, it had experienced “the most significant rainfall over a 60-minute period at any time in the history of Palm Springs.” Streets quickly succumbed to flooding.
Newsom stressed the speed at which this system was moving and cautioned residents to take nothing for granted. He also informed U.S. President Joe Biden, who swiftly directed federal agencies to mobilize personnel and supplies into the affected region.