ENSENADA, Mexico (AP) — Tropical Storm Hilary made landfall on Mexico’s Baja California coast on Sunday, as concerns mounted that the storm could trigger potentially deadly flash flooding in the Southern California border city of Tijuana and locations as far north as Idaho , which rarely occur such heavy rains.
Hilary hit the coast in a sparsely populated area about 150 miles (250 kilometers) south of Ensenada.
The storm has already caused patchy flooding across the arid Mexican peninsula and threatens to unleash torrential rain on mudslide-prone Tijuana, where many makeshift homes cling to steep hillsides south of the US border.
Meteorologists warned that the storm could cause extreme flooding, mudslides and even tornadoes. Parts of the US Southwest could be hit with once-a-century rains, and there’s a good chance Hilary will break all records as the wettest known tropical cyclone, inundating Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho.
As of 11 a.m. Pacific Time, the National Hurricane Center reported, Hilary was about 215 miles (340 kilometers) south-southeast of San Diego. Hilary had maximum sustained wind speeds of 65 miles per hour (100 km/h) and was moving northwest at a speed of 25 miles per hour (41 km/h).
The Mexican cities of Ensenada and Tijuana, which were directly in the wake of the storm, closed all beaches and opened half a dozen shelters at sports facilities and government offices.
Michael Brennan, director of the Hurricane Center, said that while Hilary was weakened by a Category 4 hurricane, people should pay more attention to the water than the wind.
“Rainfall flooding has been the leading cause of death from tropical storms and hurricanes in the United States for the past decade, and you don’t want to become a statistic,” Brennan said in an online briefing from Miami.
A man drowned when a vehicle was swept away by an overflowing stream in the Mexican city of Santa Rosalia on Saturday. Rescue workers saved four other people, said Edith Aguilar Villavicencio, the mayor of Mulege.
Forecasters expected Hilary to make history first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 yearscausing flash floods, mudslides, isolated tornadoes, strong winds and power outages.
Light rain fell across normally sunny Southern California through Sunday morning, drenching streets from Los Angeles to San Diego. Some joggers took advantage of the cool rain at San Diego’s Waterfront Park, while surfers braved the breakers of Orange County despite the oncoming wind and rain.
Tropical storm and possible flood warnings have been issued for all of southern California, from the Pacific coast to the mountains and deserts inland, and as far north as eastern Oregon and Idaho. Hilary was expected to remain a tropical storm in central Nevada early Monday before dissipating.
Brennan said rainfall amounts could range from 7 to 15 centimeters (3 to 6 inches) in many areas, with some higher amounts in isolated spots. Forecasters warned there could be as much as 25 centimeters of rain — a full year’s rainfall in some areas.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it has officers at the California Emergency Preparedness Office and teams on standby delivering food, water and other assistance.
Hilary is just the latest major climate catastrophe to wreak havoc across the US, Canada and Mexico. Hawaii’s island of Maui is still suffering from last week’s fire killed over 100 people and devastated them historic town of Lahaina, making it the deadliest wildfire in the United States in more than a century. Meanwhile, firefighters in Canada are fighting the fires The country’s worst fire season on record.
Hilary left a long line of washed-out highways and roads along the Baja Peninsula on Sunday. Some of the worst damage occurred in the coastal towns of Mulege and Santa Rosalia on the east side of the peninsula, where a man died on Saturday after his family’s vehicle was swept away by a swelling creek. Four other occupants of the vehicle were rescued. In many places, power lines had fallen and rescue workers were working to restore power and reach power lines cut by the storm.
In California, evacuation warnings were issued for Santa Catalina Island, which has urged residents and beachgoers to leave the tourist destination for the mainland, and for several mountain and foothill communities in San Bernardino County. Orange County has sent out an alert to everyone living in a burn scar in the Silverado and Williams Canyons of the Santa Ana Mountains.
Los Angeles authorities scrambled to move the homeless off the streets into shelters, and officials ordered all state beaches in San Diego and Orange counties to be closed.
Throughout the region Municipalities ran out of free sandbags and grocery shelves emptied as residents stockpiled supplies. Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve in California have been closed to prevent visitors from being stranded amid the flooding.
“I urge everyone, everyone who is opposing this storm, to take precautions and listen to the direction of state and local officials,” President Joe Biden said.
One of several emerging storm systems in the Atlantic evolved into Tropical Storm Emily on Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was far from land and moving west in the open ocean.