States in the mostly dry southwestern US raced Saturday to prepare for life-threatening flooding forecast as Hurricane Hilary approached from Mexico, where damage and one death were reported.
A Saturday evening bulletin from the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Hilary’s winds had weakened significantly but remained at a dangerous 90 miles per hour (145 kilometers per hour) with higher gusts. .
On the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, that would put the hurricane in Category 1, down from its Category 4 peak.
The center of the storm “will move near the west-central coast of the Baja California Peninsula” Saturday night and Sunday morning, the NHC said, and “then move across southern California on Sunday afternoon.”
“Heavy rains” affected parts of Baja California and the southwestern United States, with “probability of flooding and danger to life.”
The storm is expected to weaken to a tropical storm before reaching southern California and southern Nevada, with heavy rain and flooding still possible.
Mexico’s Civil Protection agency said in a statement Saturday that river and stream levels had risen sharply in Loreto and Mulege on Baja California’s east coast, which were also hit by landslides and road closures. .
It added that one person died after a car was washed away in the Mulege river.
Residents and workers at the Mexican tourist resort of Cabo San Lucas set up protective boarding and placed thousands of sandbags as large waves hit the beach.
Military personnel were seen patrolling the town’s beach, a popular destination for Mexican and foreign tourists on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula.
“We took all the precautionary measures last night,” Omar Olvera told AFP on Saturday at the Cabo San Lucas beachfront restaurant where he works.
With sandbags piled up protectively around the restaurant, he said, “We’re just watching the workers and waiting for the weather to come.”
The streets of the town of Todos Santos, on the west coast of the peninsula, were mostly deserted on Saturday while the nearby beach of Los Cerritos was closed due to strong waves.
“Last night, we felt the wind blow, it was not as strong as we expected but it still caused us concern,” said Marco Segura, a 57-year-old worker in Los Cerritos.
The Mexican government deployed nearly 19,000 soldiers to the states most affected by the storm, while the federal electric utility sent 800 workers and hundreds of vehicles to address any outages.
In the United States, “rainfall amounts of three to six inches, with isolated amounts of 10 inches, are expected in parts of southern California and southern Nevada,” the NHC said.
“Catastrophic flooding is expected.”
Nancy Ward, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said Hilary could be one of the worst hurricanes to hit the state in more than a decade.
“Make no mistake,” he said at a press conference on Saturday. “This is a very dangerous and important storm.”
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed teams to areas targeted by Hilary ahead of the storm, while Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for much of southern California.
US President Joe Biden, who is at a rented vacation home with his family in Lake Tahoe along the California-Nevada border, was briefed on Saturday by senior staff about preparations for the storm, the White House.
Biden and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, plan to visit Hawaii on Monday to assess the fire’s damage as recovery operations continue.
In San Diego, the US Navy said ships and submarines would go to sea on Saturday ahead of the storm’s arrival.
“Safety remains our top priority, and putting all capable ships at sea makes it easier for us to manage the situation ashore,” US Third Fleet commander Michael Boyle said in a press release.
Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer rescheduled games planned for Sunday in the US region.
Hurricanes hit Mexico every year on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Although hurricanes occasionally affect California, it is rare for hurricanes to strike the state with such force.
Scientists warn that storms are becoming more intense as the world warms due to climate change.