The storm weakened to a Category 3 hurricane on Saturday, but it was still expected to produce heavy rain and flooding.

Hurricane Hilary, a powerful Category 3 hurricane, was charging through the Pacific Ocean on Saturday heading toward Mexico and the United States, where it could cause heavy rain and dangerous flooding even after weakening.

The storm, which weakened on Saturday to a Category 3 hurricane, was about 350 miles south-southeast of Punta Eugenia, Mexico and about 710 miles south-southeast of San Diego as of 11 a.m. on Saturday in Los Angeles, the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. Meteorologists have said that the storm may cause “life-threatening” and potentially “catastrophic” flooding in Baja and the Southwestern United States, starting this weekend.

The tropical storm warning in effect early Saturday indicated that tropical storm conditions were possible within the coverage area over the next 36 hours. The area stretched from the California-Mexico border to Point Mugu, around 40 miles west of Santa Monica by road, and includes Catalina Island. The warning was the first ever issued for Southern California, according to the hurricane center.

Hilary had sustained winds near 115 miles per hour, the Hurricane Center said.Tropical cyclones that have sustained winds of 39 m.p.h. earn a name. Once winds reach 74 m.p.h., a storm becomes a hurricane, and, at 111 m.p.h., it becomes a major hurricane.

A number of events in the Los Angeles area this weekend, including a Major League Soccer match and several Major League Baseball games, have been rescheduled because of the approaching storm.

Hilary formed as a tropical storm off the coast of Manzanillo, Mexico, on Wednesday and began moving west-northwest toward Baja California as it strengthened.

Hilary is expected to continue to weaken but still to remain a hurricane as it approaches the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula on Saturday. It will then most likely become a tropical storm before reaching Southern California by Sunday.


A satellite image showing Hurricane Hilary off the coast of Mexico on Thursday.Credit…NOAA

Hilary’s exact landfall likely will not make much of a difference when it comes to the expected hazards in the region, meteorologists said.

Hilary will bring up to six inches of rain across portions of the Baja California Peninsula through Sunday night, with isolated amounts up to 10 inches and the possibility of flash flooding.

Portions of Southern California and Southern Nevada will record similar rainfall totals through Tuesday morning, which could lead to “dangerous and locally catastrophic flooding,” forecasters said. Some arid regions of Nevada could record one to two years’ worth of rain in a single day, the Weather Prediction Center said.

A flood watch was issued for much of Southern California, includingLos Angeles, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura Counties. Other areas across the West can expect a few inches of rain.

Residents in Southern California raced to prepare sandbags and fill generators ahead of Hilary’s arrival as emergency officials prepared evacuation centers. Some expressed particular concern about the impact on mountain and desert regions.

Forecasters said that strong winds could occur ahead of the storm’s center. Those winds, combined with heavy rain, could lead to mudslides and landslides that could block roadways, the Weather Prediction Center said in an update on Saturday.

“Towns could get cut off,” the center said.

Mexico’s government issued a hurricane warning for the Baja California peninsula from Punta Abreojos to Cabo San Quintin. A hurricane watch is also in effect for the Baja California Peninsula’s west coast north of Cabo San Quintin to Ensenada.

A tropical storm warning and watch were also issued for multiple regions of the peninsula and mainland Mexico.

The Mexican army mobilized thousands of troops in anticipation of severe damage to infrastructure.

The Eastern Pacific hurricane season has been active this summer, but most of these recent storms have tracked west toward Hawaii, including Hurricane Dora, which helped enhance extreme winds that led to the devastating wildfires on Maui.

It is “exceedingly rare” for a tropical storm to come off the ocean and make landfall in California, said Stefanie Sullivan, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in San Diego. The only tropical cyclone to truly make landfall in Southern California was an unnamed storm in 1939 that made landfall in Long Beach, she said.

However, storms have come close or weakened before coming ashore, still causing flooding and dangerous winds, like Kay, a post-tropical cyclone, last year. Sometimes storms even move across the state from Mexico; in 1997, Hurricane Nora made landfall in Baja California before moving inland and reaching Arizona as a tropical storm.

Complicating things in the Pacific this year is the development of El Ni?o, the intermittent, large-scale weather pattern that can have wide-ranging effects on weather around the world.

There is solid consensus among scientists that hurricanes are becoming more powerful because of climate change. Although there might not be more named storms overall, the likelihood of major hurricanes is increasing.

Climate change is also affecting the amount of rain that storms can produce. In a warming world, the air can hold more moisture, which means a named storm can hold and produce more rainfall, as Hurricane Harvey did in Texas in 2017, when some areas received more than 40 inches of rain in less than 48 hours.

Researchers have also found that storms have slowed down over the past few decades.

When a storm slows down over water, it increases the amount of moisture it can absorb. When the storm slows over land, it increases the amount of rain that falls over a single location, as with Hurricane Dorian in 2019, which slowed to a crawl over the northwestern Bahamas, resulting in 22.84 inches of rain at Hope Town over the storm’s duration.

These are just a few ways that climate change is most likely affecting these storms. Research shows there may be other effects as well, including storm surge, rapid intensification and a broader reach of tropical systems.

Derrick Bryson Taylor, Jesus Jim?nez, Orlando Mayorquin and Mike Ives contributed reporting.



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