Hurricane Hilary is predicted to hit the Mexican state of Baja California, on Saturday morning.
The storm, which started out as a tropical storm, underwent rapid intensification from Thursday to Friday. Within 24 hours, it had become a Category 4 hurricane.
According to forecasters, the hurricane will eventually become a tropical storm after losing wind speed. It will then make its way toward Southern California, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada.
It will be the first tropical storm to make landfall in California in more than 8 decades. Stefanie Sullivan, a forecaster who works for the NWS, described it as an “extremely rare” occurrence. The last time it happened was back in 1939 in Long Beach, California.
There will be potential for heavy rain, up to 10 inches in some areas, which can have a significant impact on certain parts of Southern Nevada and Southern California. In San Diego, the NWS has also issued a flash flood warning.
In total, nearly 26 million people in the South West are under flood watch.
As of Friday morning, the eye of the hurricane is located approximately 400 miles south of Mexico’s coast. Wind speeds have also intensified rapidly over the last 24 hours – up to 74mph, according to the NWS. In the U.S., conditions are expected to peak starting on Sunday.
Experts believe the abnormal and severe weather events experienced by the United States – and other countries across the world – are due to the climate change crisis. Just last month, the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history spread across the island of Hawaii, during the hottest month on record. Hurricane winds passing through the region also escalated the damage.
Southwest U.S. Braces for Flooding
Hurricane Hilary is predicted to weaken substantially before hitting Southern California and other parts of the coast. Despite it weakening over time, however, it is still expected to bring heavy rainfall, which can lead to significant flooding.
Heavy rainfall will likely begin on Saturday and continue through the next week, with the most intense periods starting on Sunday. This may lead to “multiple years worth of rain” falling into some of the driest areas of the state, including Death Valley, the hottest place on the planet.
Typically, Death Valley only receives 2 inches of precipitation in a year. With Hurricane Hilary, however, it may receive up to 2 years’ worth of rainfall within 24 hours.
Prolonged rainfall may oversaturate the soils and overwhelm the waterways, both of which can result in flooding.
In Los Angeles, the National Weather Service has issued a warning for potentially high surf and rip currents.