Aug 21, 2023
A Pacific cyclone named Hilary barreled across Mexico and southern California on Sunday. The region's dry climate rarely experiences the wind, rain, and floods that can come from such storms.
The storm claimed its first victim before landfall. Major flooding fatally swept away a motorist in Mexico. More damage was expected along the West Coast. Tropical storm warnings were put into effect for 42 million southern Californians. Flood watches were in place as far north as Oregon.
Hilary was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm Sunday. But that didn’t lower the threat much. The West Coast is not nearly as prepared as the eastern US for such storms.
Hilary could dump as much as 10 inches of rain in some parts of the region. That's more than some parts of the area get in a whole year! Other effects are harder to predict. That's because of the mountain ranges in the area, experts said.
This type of storm could also cause more damage in the West because the right side of a hurricane tends to be stronger than the left. Unlike the East Coast, this storm’s strongest winds could strike land instead of ocean.
Hilary’s path is odd but not unprecedented, experts said. Alaskan currents tend to make the ocean off the California coast too cold for cyclones. But a professor of oceanography at LSU told Vox that a jet stream is pulling Hilary northward, instead of west. That movement is rare.
The last tropical cyclone to strike California was Nora, in 1997.
Photo from Reuters.
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