As Hurricane Hilary barrels towards Southern California, millions of residents could soon be bracing for the region’s first tropical storm in more than 80 years.
A hurricane watch has been declared in Baja, California, according to officials at the National Weather Service station in Monterey. And large portions of Southern California have also been placed on tropical storm watches — that means wind speeds may fall between 39 to 73 miles per hour.
Hurricane Hilary is expected to transition from its peak strength as a category 4 hurricane with sustained windspeeds of 145 mph into a tropical storm before it sweeps through San Diego on Sunday at around 8 p.m.
Tropical storms are exceedingly rare in California, National Weather Service officials say. The last one hit Southern California on Sep. 25, 1939.
Flash floods warnings have been issued in large swaths of Southern California, though there is not enough precipitation in the core of the storm to categorize it as an atmospheric river.
After our drought-busting winter, Golden State residents grew familiar with atmospheric rivers, which are distinct from tropical storms in that they are defined by the amount of water held in the inner core of the storm, rather than by windspeeds, and they generally develop in winter months — rarely after May.
The timing of Hilary could hardly be better when it comes to wildfire risk. Officials say that all the forecasted rain in Southern California will put a serious damper on the region’s fire season, though it’s not enough rain to put an end to the season outright.