Photos: Here’s what California looks like in the wake of Hilary


The tropical storm made landfall in Mexico on Sunday and moved up the coast to southern California, bringing flooding, power outages, and school closures.

Vehicles cross over a flood control basin that has almost reached the street, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023, in Palm Desert, Calif. Forecasters said Tropical Storm Hilary was the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, bringing the potential for flash floods, mudslides, isolated tornadoes, high winds and power outages. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill AP

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tropical Storm Hilary deluged arid parts of Mexico and then drenched Southern California from the coast to the desert resort city of Palm Springs and inland mountains, forcing rescuers to pull several people from swollen rivers. Even as the storm subsides across the coast, flooding and mudslides were expected across the parts of the southwestern U.S.

The storm first made landfall in Mexico’s arid Baja California Peninsula on Sunday in a sparsely populated area about 150 miles (250 kilometers) south of Ensenada. One person drowned. It then moved through mudslide-prone Tijuana, threatening the improvised homes that cling to hillsides just south of the U.S. border.

  • Tropical Storm Hilary -

    Rain from Tropical Storm Hilary lashes California and Mexico, swamping roads and trapping cars

The first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, Hilary dropped more than half an average year’s worth of rain on some areas, including Palm Springs, which saw nearly 3.18 inches (8 centimeters) of rain by Sunday evening.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami downgraded Hilary to a post-tropical storm in its early Monday advisory, and warned that “continued life-threatening and locally catastrophic flooding” was expected over portions of the southwestern U.S. on Monday. All coastal warnings were discontinued.

Forecasters warned of dangerous flash floods across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, and fire officials rescued 13 people from knee-deep water in a homeless encampment along the rising San Diego River. Meanwhile, rain and debris washed out some roadways and people left their cars stranded in standing water. Crews pumped floodwaters out of the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.

Sunday was the wettest day on record in San Diego, with 1.82 inches (4.6 centimeters), the National Weather Service said in a post on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. The previous record was on Aug. 17, 1977, when 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) post-Hurricane Doreen dumped record rainfall on the area.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school system, said all campuses would be closed on Monday, as did districts across the region. San Diego schools postponed the first day of classes from Monday to Tuesday.

The Palm Springs Police Department said in a statement Sunday that 911 lines were down and that in the event of an emergency to text 911 or reach out to the nearest police or fire station.

The storm was projected to weaken as it continued moving northward over California and into Nevada, but Richard Pasch, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, said “very heavy” rain and strong winds are still likely.

Southern California got another surprise Sunday afternoon as an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 hit near Ojai, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was felt widely and was followed by smaller aftershocks. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injury, according to a dispatcher with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

Hilary is just the latest major climate disaster to wreak havoc across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Hawaii’s island of Maui is still reeling from a blaze that killed over 100 people and ravaged the historic town of Lahaina, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. Firefighters in Canada are battling that nation’s worst fire season on record.

As Hilary bore down on Mexico, one person drowned Saturday in Mugele, on the eastern side of the Baja Peninsula, when a vehicle was swept away by an overflowing stream. Rescue workers saved four other people, said Edith Aguilar Villavicencio, the mayor of Mulege.

Mexican army troops fanned out across the area where some of the worst damage occurred Saturday. Soldiers used bulldozers and dump trucks to help clear tons of boulders and earth that clogged streets and roads. Power lines were toppled in many places, and emergency personnel worked to restore electricity.

On Sunday morning in California, the warnings from officials didn’t keep everyone indoors. In coastal Carlsbad, just north of San Diego, 19-year-old Jack Johnson and his friends kept an eye on the huge waves, determined to surf them.

“It’s really choppy out there, not really surfable yet, but I think we can find a good break somewhere later,” Johnson said. “I can’t remember a storm like this.”

Also Sunday, one of several budding storm systems in the Atlantic Ocean became Tropical Storm Emily, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was far from land, moving west in the open ocean. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Franklin formed in the eastern Caribbean. Tropical storm watches were issued for the southern coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

In September 1939, a tropical storm that roared into California ripped apart train tracks, tore houses from their foundations and capsized many boats, killing nearly 100 people on land and at sea.

Dark clouds form over downtown San Diego as Tropical Storm Hilary passes through the area on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP
Volunteers fill sandbags in Long Beach, Calif., on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. Daniel Dreifuss/The New York Times
Surfers at Seal Beach on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023 as Tropical Storm Hilary made its way to southern Calif. Daniel Dreifuss/The New York Times
Vehicles cross over a flood control basin that has almost reached the street, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023, in Palm Desert, Calif. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
A flooded homeless encampment is seen along California Route 14 in Palmdale, Calif., as a tropical storm moves into the area, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. AP Photo/Richard Vogel
A car is partially submerged in floodwaters as Hurricane Hilary moves through in Cathedral City, California, on Aug. 20. Mario Tama/Getty
Tourists wade through a crosswalk in Palm Springs, Calif. Hilary went from a hurricane to a tropical storm by the time it made landfall Sunday. Photo for The Washington Post by Philip Cheung
A vehicle engulfed in water drives through a flooded freeway entrance in Palmdale, Calif., as a tropical storm moves into the area, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. AP Photo/Richard Vogel
A plow clears debris along a flooded Sierra Highway in Palmdale, Calif., as Tropical Storm Hilary moves through the area on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. AP Photo/Richard Vogel
Reagan King battles the wind while out with her parents at Imperial Beach after the eye of Tropical Storm Hilary passed on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023, in San Diego. The Imperial Beach Pier was closed to the public. K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP