Local News

Hurricane Hilary Hits Southern California

By: Megan Saul

Media Production Editor

On Aug. 20, Hurricane Hilary, a tropical storm hit Southern California and part of Mexico. Although initially categorized as a fourth category hurricane, Hilary quickly became a tropical storm due to decreased wind speeds and cold ocean temperatures. The first tropical storm to hit this area since 1997, Hilary caused damage to roads, forced people to flee, and surpassed previous daily and summer rainfall records for California.

The hurricane brought Southern California out of their drought for the first time in three years. The rain filled various lakes in the area, such as Lake Cachuma and Lake Mead in Arizona and Nevada. Different regions of Southern California, such as Palm Springs and Orange Country, reported anywhere between 1-3 inches of rain. Approximately three inches of rain fell in Palm Springs, causing a widespread 911 outage. The storm mainly hit desert areas and mountains like San Bernardino and Riverside, causing mudslides, landslides, downed electrical wires, and fallen trees, but luckily, did not cause any severe damage or deaths. 

The 5.1 magnitude earthquake that took place in the city of Ojai during the storm also did not cause any significant damage. Although the two natural disasters were not related to each other, their overlapping caused the deputy director of Emergency Services in California to explain, “unfortunately our state has had the opportunity to get pretty good at this work.”

 In Baja California, many migrants had to seek shelter for protection. Asylum seekers José de Jesús Torres and his daughter, Areli, were in serious danger while sleeping in tents outside during the storm. They were fortunately able to find cover in buildings turned into shelters. Tijuana’s Director of Migrant Affairs Enrique Lucero shared, “With these phenomena, migrants and citizens are always at risk.”

However, the hurricane was not as disastrous due to the use of new technology and the conditions of the ocean atmosphere. In this case, the Pacific Ocean’s cold temperatures helped create a barrier protecting the coast, transforming the hurricane into a tropical storm. Warnings of the incoming hurricane also helped to save lives. For the first time for a West Coast storm, the National Weather Service sent various messages warning people of the incoming weather. Regarding the new technology, National Weather Service meteorologist Philip Gonsalez stated, “It required training of personnel, it required adding software to our computers and establishing protocols with the National Hurricane Center.” Warnings gave unprepared people ample time to get ready and prep, as well as vacate dangerous areas.

(Sources: CBS, LA Times, NY Times, USA Today)

Categories: Local News

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