Hilary strengthens to a hurricane, could bring heavy rain to Southern California, Southwest this weekend

ByTaylor Ward, CNNWire

Thursday, August 17, 2023 4:55PM

Hilary strengthens to a hurricane, could bring heavy rain to SoCal

Hilary strengthened into a hurricane in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Mexico on Thursday and is on track to pass along Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. It threatens possible impacts in parts of the West as a weaker system.

Hilary is forecast to rapidly intensify through the end of the week into a Category 4 hurricane with winds of at least 130 mph, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned.

The hurricane was about 320 miles south of Manzanillo, Mexico, Thursday morning, whipping maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

Hilary is expected to weaken significantly before it reaches Southern California and parts of the Southwest, but could potentially bring significant impacts to these areas in the form of heavy rain and flooding.

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, said on Wednesday “multiple years’ worth of precipitation” could potentially fall in some of California’s driest areas.

With an uncertain forecast, a wide range of outcomes is still possible as Hilary will be moving parallel to the Baja Peninsula. Small deviations in the track will lead to significant shifts in rainfall amounts and impacts.

“This does have the potential to be a very high impact event for portions of Southern California,” the San Diego National Weather Service said. “There is still a degree of uncertainty in the forecast and more details will come on exact timing, location, and magnitude of impacts in the coming days.”

Tracking Hurricane Hilary

As of 7 a.m. Thursday, Hilary was a Category 1 hurricane sitting several hundred miles off the southwest coast of Mexico. Its maximum sustained winds were clocked at 75 mph.

By midnight Thursday and through Friday afternoon, the hurricane is expected to continue heading in a northwesterly direction.

It will then start to turn northward as it makes its way toward Baja California.

As of early Saturday morning and through noon that day, forecasters predict, the hurricane will barrel toward the Baja Peninsula. Landfall is expected sometime after 12 a.m. Sunday.

The hurricane will traverse Baja California as it heads northward toward Southern California, with the remnants of Hilary continuing to impact the region through Monday and possibly into Tuesday.

The CNN Wire contributed to this report.

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