The United States braces itself for yet another hurricane racing toward California and Mexico, expected to reach the coastline on the evening of August 19. Hurricane Hilary is a category four storm with winds of up to 130mph and was called ‘strong and powerful’ when it was located about 300 miles off the coast of Mexico.
As per the latest estimates, the hurricane will make landfall in the Baja peninsula in Mexico, roughly 330 km south of the port of Ensenada. U.S. President Joe Biden issued a warning late August 18 in Maryland, saying that Federal Emergency Management Agency would respond to the hurricane with pre-positioned personnel and supplies in the region. Mexico, on the other hand, has mobilized over 18,000 troops in anticipation of the storm.
In its most recent forecast, The National Hurricane Center warned of “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” from the storm on August 21. The forecast said, “Preparations for the impacts of flooding from rainfall should be completed as soon as possible, as heavy rain will increase ahead of the center today. In the southwestern United States, flash, urban, and arroyo flooding is expected, with dangerous and locally catastrophic impacts likely from tonight into Monday.” Communication networks and electricity is anticipated to be lost in the coming days, and people have also been instructed to stock up on essentials.
The storm could bring high winds, surf, and rain to southern California. Rain will hit regions of Los Angeles, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico that experienced record-breaking heatwaves this summer. Nevada is expected to break its all-time rainfall record, according to meteorologists. Hurricane Hilary could also transform Death Valley, known for its intense heat and bone-dry landscape, into a desert oasis. The tropical deluge could overwhelm the landscape and cause a massive lake to form.
Desert areas like Palm Springs are at an increasing risk of “numerous washouts and mudslides.” The Accuweather forecast said, “The infrastructure may not be able to handle the historic rain amounts which have the potential to surpass the yearly historical average in just a few days.” Torrential rains can also put Joshua Tree and Zion In Utah National Parks at risk for flooding.
This is the first time such a warning has been issued for the area, as California hasn’t witnessed a tropical storm make landfall on the coast since hurricane records started in 1949. Authorities in California are scrambling to pull out the unhoused people to safer areas like shelters. Janice Hahn, chair of the Los Angeles county board of supervisors, said, “I don’t think any of us – I know me particularly – never thought I’d be standing here talking about a hurricane or a tropical storm.”
A fair share of Hurricanes strike the U.S. coastline annually, roughly five hurricanes in 3 years. But Hurricane Hillary barreling toward the west coast is out of the ordinary. Usually, hurricanes stay offshore when they approach California and subside to become tropical storms by the time they make landfall. Hurricanes are such a rare phenomenon on the West Coast because of the cool temperature and the fact that cold current steers colder water from higher latitudes toward equatorial regions.
Simply put, the frequency and intensity of hurricane landfalls could be blamed on climate change. The surface temperature of the oceans has gone up by 0.9 degree Celsius since 1850 and around 0.6 degree Celsius over the last four decades. Rising ocean surface temperatures can cause marine heat waves, causing storms like hurricanes and tropical cyclones which are further intensified by the El Nino effect. This weather pattern has developed for the first time in seven years and refers to an abnormal warming of surface waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean