Tropical Storm Hilary Floods Southern California

Aug. 21, 2023
Over 31,000 people lost power in and around Los Angeles County

Tropical Storm Hilary touched down in Southern California on Sunday evening, prompting rescues and bringing intensifying rain to the region. Some areas saw an average year’s worth of rain come down in just one day, including the desert resort city of Palm Springs, which saw nearly 3 inches of rain by Sunday evening. In the San Diego area, Hilary toppled trees and caused mudslides.

Across the region, boulders toppled onto the highways and water overwhelmed the drainage systems. Dozens of cars were trapped in floodwaters in Palm Springs and surrounding desert communities across the Coachella Valley. Crews pumped floodwaters out of the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.

On Sunday evening, storms took down power lines, causing thousands to be without power. Over 31,000 people lost power in and around Los Angeles County.

The city of Palm Springs declared an emergency, "due to unprecedented rainfall in flooding of local roadways and at least one swift water rescue." The declaration, according to spokesperson Amy Blaisdell, opens up access to extra resources, such as funds for repairs from storm damage and more flexibility with emergency purchases.

According to the National Weather Service, two debris flows have been reported over roadways in San Bernardino, with rocks on roadways in Kern. The National Weather Service added that two semi-trucks were reported flipped along Interstate 8 in Imperial.

According to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Hilary's rainfall is an extreme, record-breaking event. There’s a very clear link between increases in extreme precipitation and global warming,” Swain said. In a warmer world, “the atmosphere’s capacity to hold water vapor increases exponentially.”

Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency. Authorities issued an evacuation advisory for Santa Catalina Island, 23 miles off the coast.

Coachella Valley residents prepared for the storm by filling up sandbags as a precaution. On Sunday night, Hilary's heavy rain turned roadways into rivers and filled up the local wash.

As most of Southern California was hunkered down in preparation of Hilary, a 5.1 earthquake struck north of Los Angeles. Luckily, tthere were no immediate reports of damage or injury from the quake.