After a precipitation-scarce summer, Mother Nature will be sending a potentially dangerous storm to the Los Angeles area this weekend.
Hurricane Hilary, a rapidly strengthening storm, has been traversing along the coast of southwestern Mexico, and is poised to continue north and bring impacts to Southern California throughout the weekend and into Monday. According to the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center, Hilary was about 475 miles off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, as of 2 p.m. PDT Thursday, packing maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.
Initially named a tropical storm on Wednesday morning, the system intensified into Thursday, eventually strengthening into a Category 2 hurricane. A report by AccuWeather states that Hilary is forecast to peak as a Category 3 hurricane as it spins off Mexico’s Baja peninsula this weekend.
The NWS report notes that rainfall amounts between 2-4 inches, with isolated locations receiving more than 8 inches, will be possible throughout portions of Southern California, including parts of the Los Angeles metro area.
While mountains to the east of Los Angeles will shield Santa Monica and other cities on the coastline from Hilary’s worst impacts, rounds of heavy rain and high wind gusts are forecast, along with rough surf which will build throughout the early part of the weekend. According to Surf Forecast, the most powerful waves at the Santa Monica Pier area are forecast to arrive Sunday morning, with waves swelling up to 3 feet every 17 seconds.
Due to the Marine Weather Statement issued by the NWS for the storm, the Santa Monica Office of Emergency Management is coordinating with local response agencies to prepare for the storm. Chief Resilience Officer Lindsay Call recommended that residents avoid recreational outdoor activities during the storm, prepare for high winds by securing items such as patio furniture and gas grills, and to prepare for potential power outages by keeping devices charged and having battery-operated flashlights, radios and backup batteries available.
State officials are also monitoring the development of Hilary, with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services coordinating across state government to support state and local preparations. The State Operations Center in Mather is also coordinating a response across state agencies, pushing resources to potentially impacted regions to support recovery efforts in Hilary’s aftermath.
The NWS forecast points to likely showers and thunderstorms on Sunday evening and Monday morning, mainly between 11 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. Monday. A chance of showers remains on Monday evening, before partly sunny conditions return Tuesday.
Rainfall will be making a rare appearance in Santa Monica, with very little precipitation since a deluge of atmospheric rivers caused massive downpours between January and March. According to Weather Underground’s Santa Monica Municipal Airport observation station, a total of 15.45 inches of precipitation fell in the city between January and March, with a peak of 2.69 inches falling between March 14 and March 15. Since April began, however, just 0.08 inches of precipitation have been recorded in the city.
Travel delays will also be a concern from Hilary, as travelers along the coastline will see delays due to worsening conditions over deserts and eastern slopes of the mountains. Incidents of flash flooding, mudslides and debris flows are also possible.
Since official record keeping on hurricanes and tropical storms began in 1949, no such storms have officially made landfall in California. The most damaging tropical storm to have directly hit the state occurred in September 1939, when the storm known as “The Lash of St. Francis” killed 45 people via deadly flooding and winds of up to 75 mph.
A close call with tropical storm landfall took place in September 2022, when Tropical Storm Kay was just 130 miles offshore from San Diego. According to the National Weather Service office in Los Angeles, temperatures in the city rose to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during Kay’s arrival, with the first round of rain from the storm evaporating before hitting the ground due to the excessive heat.