Hurricane Hilary threatens ‘catastrophic and life-threatening’ flooding in Mexico and California
CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Hilary headed for Mexico’s Baja California Saturday as the US National Hurricane Center predicted “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” for the peninsula and for the southwestern United States, where it is forecast to make land as a tropical storm on Sunday.
Officials as far north as Los Angeles scrambled to get the homeless off the streets, set up shelters and prepare for evacuations.
Hilary is expected to plow into the Mexican peninsula on Saturday night and then surge northward and enter the history books as the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years.
The US National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm watch for a wide swath of Southern California from the Pacific coast to interior mountains and deserts. Officials talked of evacuation plans for California’s Catalina Island.
“I don’t think any of us — I know me particularly — never thought I’d be standing here talking about a hurricane or a tropical storm,” said Janice Hahn, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
After rapidly gaining power early Friday, Hilary slowed some later in the day but remained a major Category 4 hurricane early Saturday with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph), down from 145 mph (230 kph).
Early Saturday, the storm was centered about 240 miles (390 kilometers) west-southwest of the southern tip of the Baja peninsula. It was moving north-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph) and was expected to turn more toward the north and pick up speed.
The latest forecast track pointed to Hilary making landfall along a sparsely populated area of the Baja peninsula at a point about 200 miles (330 kilometers) south of the Pacific port city of Ensenada.
It is then expected to continue northward, raising fears that its heavy rains could cause dangerous flooding in the border city of Tijuana, where many homes in the city of 1.9 million cling precariously to steep hillsides.
It was increasingly likely that Hilary would reach California on Sunday while still at tropical storm strength, though widespread rain was expected to begin as early as Saturday, the National Weather Service’s San Diego office said.
Hurricane officials said the storm could bring heavy rainfall to the southwestern United States, dumping 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) in places, with isolated amounts of up to 10 inches (25 centimeters), in portions of southern California and southern Nevada.