Los Angeles Under First-Ever Tropical Storm Watch With Potential For “Life-Threatening” Floods & Landslides From Hurricane Hilary Remnants

Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California is bracing for a potentially historic weather event this weekend as Hurricane Hilary barrels up the Mexico coast. The National Weather Service today issued the first-ever tropical storm watch for the region from San Diego northward through L.A. and Ventura counties as Hilary threatens to strengthen into a walloping Category 5 storm.

It is the first tropical storm warning ever put in place between Hawaii and Texas, the NWS said. Weather officials are warning of “life-threatening rainfall and flooding” as the area from San Diego to Santa Barbara could see four inches of rain. Some SoCal areas could get two to three years worth of rain in just two or three days, particularly in the desert areas including Palm Springs. Some areas could see up to 10 inches.

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Hurricane Hilary was upgraded Friday morning to a Category 4 storm, meaning winds of 130-156 mph that can cause “catastrophic damage.” Hilary has intensified rapidly, going from a tropical storm to a Cat 4 hurricane in just 24 hours. It will weaken as it crosses into Southern California, but NWS warns that flash flooding is possible across Los Angeles and Ventura counties and perhaps Santa Barbara County. Rare and dangerous flooding also is possible across the mountains.

The speed of the storm counts a lot. If it rolls slowly over land, it could be more destructive with winds and rain for longer periods.

Authorities up and down the coast and inland to Palm Springs and beyond are making preparations and urging residents to take the storm seriously. Los Angeles County officials have called a news conference for 2 p.m. to discuss storm preparedness plans in the county. Among those scheduled are Sheriff Robert Luna, Fire Chief Tony Marrone, Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin McGowan, Supervisor Janice Hahn and Public Works Assistant Director Anthony Nyivih.

No tropical storm has made landfall in California in 84 years, and only three have happened in recorded history. The 1939 storm caused widespread damage, and the affected areas are much more heavily populated now. Nearly a year ago, the remnants of Hurricane Kay broke daily-rainfall records for Los Angeles, and there were more historic totals in March of this year.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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