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Hurricane Hilary heads for California, threatens flooding, damaging winds

This image obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Hilary off the coast of Mexico on August 19, 2023, at 14:40:20UTC. (Via AFP)

Category 1 Hurricane Hilary is expected to slam into Southern California on Sunday, prompting historic weather alerts as it threatens to bring “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding in the southwest US.

According to the US National Hurricane Center, Hilary is now a Category 1 storm churning maximum winds of 85 miles per hour as it barrels north-northwest at a speed of around 20 mph.

It said the hurricane was about 385 miles south of San Diego as of 2 a.m. local time (9 a.m. GMT) Sunday.

The hurricane center warned that while Hilary is expected to weaken to a tropical storm before it reaches the US, it is still likely to bring “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding in the southwest.

A hurricane warning is in effect in Mexico from Punta Abreojos to Cabo San Quintin – a roughly 300-mile stretch along the Baja California Peninsula’s western shore.

“Flash and urban flooding, locally catastrophic, is expected, especially in the northern portions of the peninsula,” the hurricane center said.

It is forecasted that the region could see 3 to 6 inches of rain – or even 10 inches in some areas. The damaging wind could also knock out power for many residents. The worst of it is expected Sunday into Monday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency on Saturday for a large swath of Southern California to support hurricane response and recovery efforts, according to the governor’s office.

The governor’s office also announced that Hilary is forecasted to be “the wettest tropical cyclone in state history.”

Nancy Ward, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, also warned that Hilary “could be one of the most devastating storms that we’ve had hit California in more than a decade.”

On Saturday afternoon, helicopters from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office were flying over riverbed areas warning homeless people about the extreme weather both in English and Spanish.

Moreover, Visitors and some residents of Catalina Island, part of California’s Channel Islands, were “strongly encouraged” to leave the island ahead of the storm, according to a news release from the City of Avalon.

If Hilary makes landfall in California as a tropical storm, it would be the first such storm to do so in the state in nearly 84 years, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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