Pacific storm Hilary made landfall in Mexico’s Baja California coast yesterday morning, battering the region with rain, flooding roads and causing “very severe” damage to the town of Santa Rosalía, its mayor said Sunday, per the New York Times’ Thomas Fuller. In Baja California Sur, a man was killed when his car was swept away in the coursing water.
On Sunday, the storm traveled north to Southern California—the region’s first tropical storm in 84 years. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for much of the area, stating that numerous wildfires in recent years have “caused massive burn scars, exacerbating the potential for precipitation to cause dangerous and potentially catastrophic flooding and debris flows.”
The storm brought winds of over 80 miles per hour to parts of California and, in some areas, more than 10 inches of rain. Downtown L.A. recorded 2.30 inches of rain, breaking the record of 2.06 set during Cyclone Doreen in 1977. Thousands of California residents battled power outages and blocked roads due to mudslides, and 911 lines went down in Cathedral City, Indio and Palm Springs.
As of Monday morning, no deaths or significant injuries had been reported in California, which meteorologist Ariel Cohen called “no coincidence,” in a briefing on Monday, per NBC News’ Mirna Alsharif. “This came from preparedness,” Cohen said.
Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the country, postponed its first day of school from Monday to Tuesday because of the storm.
“There is no way we can compromise the safety of a single child or an employee, and our inability to survey buildings, our inability to determine access to schools makes it nearly impossible for us to open schools,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said at a media briefing, per Jordi Lebrija and Damian Dovarganes of the Associated Press.
The National Hurricane Center downgraded Hilary to a post-tropical storm Monday morning, though it warned of "continued life-threatening and locally catastrophic flooding." Hilary is expected to continue traveling northward into Nevada, Oregon and Idaho.
Storm Hilary is just the latest natural disaster wreaking havoc in North America. Hawaii is reeling from a horrific wildfire that ripped through Maui and killed at least 100 people. Officials are still searching for some 850 missing residents. In British Columbia, Canada, 15,000 households have been ordered to evacuate as fires raze the province. Hundreds of miles north, fires are also scorching the country’s Northwest Territories. Canada is currently in the midst of its worst wildfire on record, with 13,678,162 hectares burned as of August 16, an amount that is 602 percent above normal, per the Government of Canada.
“We’re seeing just this increase in the number of severe weather events but not just in the number, but the severity of these events,” Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said, per Richard Luscombe and Maya Yang of the Guardian.
Scientists have warned that climate change will continue exacerbating extreme weather events. In the Atlantic, El Niño typically hampers hurricane development, but record-breaking ocean temperatures may supercharge storms, making it difficult to predict what’s in store, per the Times.
“Stuff just doesn’t feel right,” Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, tells the publication. “There’s just a lot of kind of screwy things that we haven’t seen before.”