Tropical Storm Hilary expected to deluge Southern California with heavy rain

The first tropical threat to the U.S. this season isn’t on the East Coast or in the Gulf of Mexico — it’s in Southern California.

Tropical Storm Hilary formed Wednesday morning along Mexico’s western coast and is forecast to bring intense rain to Southern California early next week. If it makes landfall, it would become only the fourth storm of at least tropical storm strength to hit the area.

Conditions are favorable for Hilary to increase in intensity over the next two to three days. The National Hurricane Center forecasts the storm’s peak intensity Saturday morning as a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds. The storm is expected to weaken soon after that due to cooler ocean temperatures and potential land interaction with Mexico’s Baja, just south of California. By Sunday, heavy rainfall is expected to reach Southern California and southwest Arizona.

A recorded storm has never moved into California as a hurricane, and only three storms have made it into California as tropical storms: Nora in 1997, Kathleen in 1976 and Long Beach storm in 1939. That said, there are dozens of instances of tropical rain reaching Southern California and the Southwest from the remnants of tropical storms and hurricanes. Most recently, Hurricane Kay in 2022 killed a person when their house was caught in a debris flow in San Bernardino County. 

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