US meteorologists closely track Hurricane Hilary as it advances towards Mexico’s Pacific coast. Despite its weakened state, the storm retains the potential to cause “life-threatening” flooding, according to meteorologists.
With winds reaching up to 100mph (175km/h), the storm now holds Category 1 hurricane status. The National Hurricane Center reports its expected landfall later on Saturday.
Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and the southwestern US have already reported heavy rainfall.
Hilary is expected to weaken to a tropical storm before reaching southern California. This would mark the first tropical storm to strike the US state in over 80 years.
As of the latest update at 21:00 GMT on Saturday, the hurricane is approximately 285 miles (459km) southeast of Baja California’s westernmost point, Punta Eugenia.
John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, comments, “Hilary appears to be weakening quickly.” He mentions that the eye is filling, and the cloud tops in the eyewall and rainbands have been warming over the past few hours.
At first a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 130mph, Hilary’s strength has diminished. However, the risk remains substantial. The National Hurricane Center warns specific areas of southern California and southern Nevada could experience up to 10 inches (25cm) of rainfall, potentially leading to “dangerous to catastrophic flooding.”
In San Diego, the National Weather Service (NWS) issues a flash flood warning. Currently, approximately 26 million people in the southwestern US are under flood watch.
President Joe Biden reassures the public that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is prepared. FEMA strategically positions personnel and supplies in the affected regions. He urges individuals in the storm’s path to heed guidance from state and local officials.
Mexico also takes proactive measures, with 18,000 soldiers on standby for rescue efforts. Responding to Hilary’s approach, Major League Baseball reschedules games in southern California. Additionally, SpaceX delays a rocket launch from its central California base.
To mitigate potential flooding, the National Park Service closes Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve in California. Various cities across the region offer sandbags to residents to safeguard their properties.
While Mexico frequently experiences hurricanes and tropical storms, the last tropical storm to make landfall in southern California occurred in 1939 in Long Beach. Experts attribute unusual global weather patterns to human-caused climate change.
Following July 2023’s record as the hottest month and the devastating Hawaii wildfires, Hurricane Hilary serves as a stark reminder of the increasing vulnerability to extreme weather events amidst climate change.