The remnants of Tropical Storm Hilary pummeled California with record rains on Monday, disrupting flights but sparing its largest cities from widespread destruction.
Across the region, “the ongoing and historic amount of rainfall is expected to cause life-threatening to locally catastrophic” floods, along with landslides and mudslides, the National Hurricane Center said in a notice early Monday.
The storm, now a post-tropical cyclone, has weakened since coming ashore in California late Sunday. As of early Monday, it had maximum sustained winds of about 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour and is forecast to move across Nevada and dissipate on Monday.
Hilary, a rare storm to hit the Southwest, could bring a year’s worth of rain to parts of a region famous for its usually balmy weather. Heavy rain and flash flooding have already disrupted transportation, and officials warned residents to stay off the roads. In the last 10 years, flooding from rainfall has caused the most deaths from hurricanes and tropical storms in the US.
Rain was tapering off in Los Angeles, where public schools have been closed. With creeks and rivers rising, a flood warning in San Bernardino area was in place until 3 p.m. local time. Further south, the San Diego River at Fashion Valley had risen to 8.95 feet by Sunday, likely a record for the time of year. Separately, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake rattled Southern California on Sunday.
Hilary brought record rainfall for the date in Los Angeles with 2.48 inches (6 centimeters) falling Sunday, breaking the old mark set in 1906, the weather service said. Neighboring Burbank and Long Beach, as well as a wide area around San Diego and Bakersfield, also set new marks for the date. In Palm Springs, a record 3.18 inches fell.
Rescuers pulled several people from swollen rivers in California, the Associated Press reported.
More than 1,200 flights were canceled around the US Sunday and Monday, with most of those in California, Nevada and Arizona, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking company.
Flood watches stretched eastward into Arizona and northward into Oregon and Idaho, according to the National Weather Service. High wind warnings were in place across most of Nevada early Monday.
Hilary’s path across the West will help strengthen a high pressure area in the central US that is bringing a punishing heat wave to at least 50 million people from Minnesota to Texas. High temperature will push to 100F degrees (38C) or more across a large area including St. Louis, Little Rock, Dallas and Houston.