Tropical Storm Hilary is expected to continue to drive in a northeasterly direction through Nevada over the course of Tuesday, having already brought heavy rain and flooding to the deserts of northern Mexico and southern California, forcing rescuers to pull several people from swollen rivers.
Although Hilary has weakened from hurricane status and lost much of its force as it heads towards the Rocky Mountains, millions expect more rain, flooding and mudslides to come, now as far north as southeastern Oregon and the west-central mountains of Idaho, with potential thunderstorms forecast.
On Monday, Nevada experienced flooding and power outages and a boil-water order was issued for about 400 households in the Mount Charleston area, where the only road in and out was washed out.
The Pacific front had drifted north along the coast of Mexico’s arid Baja California Peninsula before it made landfall on Sunday in a sparsely populated area about 150 miles south of Ensenada.
One person drowned in Mugele when their vehicle was swept away and the Mexican military had to step in with bulldozers and dump trucks to help clear tonnes of boulders and earth that clogged streets and roads, as well as downed power lines.
The storm then moved through mudslide-prone Tijuana, threatening the improvised homes that cling to hillsides just south of the US border.
The first tropical storm to hit southern California in 84 years, Hilary has already dropped more than half an average year’s worth of rain on some areas, including the desert resort of Palm Springs, which had seen nearly 7.6 centimetres of rain by Sunday evening.
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.
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, while the Palm Springs Police Department said in a statement on 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.
Tropical Storm Hilary is projected to weaken as it continues 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.
You can see a map of its anticipated path below.
Southern California got another surprise on Sunday afternoon when an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 hit near Ojai, about 80 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, according to the US Geological Survey. It was felt widely and was followed by smaller aftershocks. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injury.
Hilary is just the latest major climate disaster to wreak havoc across the US, 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 American wildfire in more than a century.
Meanwhile, firefighters in Canada are now battling that nation’s worst fire season on record.
Additional reporting by agencies