RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County was under an unprecedented tropical storm warning Sunday, as Hilary moved toward Southern California off the Baja California coast and forecasters warned of the potential for dangerous flooding in the Inland Empire.
Hilary weakened from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm early Sunday, the National Weather Service announced, but it was still expected to cause potentially life-threatening flooding in the mountain and desert areas.
The storm was expected to make landfall near San Diego early Sunday afternoon. The NWS warned of “potentially historic amounts of rainfall” that was “expected to cause life-threatening to locally catastrophic flash, urban and arroyo flooding including landslides, mudslides, and debris flows through early Monday morning.”
A flood watch was in effect until 5 p.m. Monday for much of Riverside County, and residents were advised to remain sheltered this weekend. Winds of 30-40 mph were expected Sunday, with gusts up to 55 mph, according to the NWS.
An evacuation order was issued on Sunday around 9 a.m. for the Mias zone in the Apple/El Dorado burn scar, north of Banning and near the Morongo Reservation, according to the Riverside County Emergency Management Department.
A voluntary evacuation warning was issued for Highland Springs, Beaumont, Hemet, Banning and Reche Canyon Road in Colton ahead of the storm, according to the EMD.
A thunderstorm was located over Coachella on Sunday moving northwest at 55 mph, which prompted the NWS to issue a brief severe thunderstorm warning until 1:45 p.m. for the areas of Indio, southeastern Palm Springs, Coachella, Palm Desert, Thermal, Highway 74 between Anza and Palm Desert, La Quinta and Mecca.
The NWS Storm Prediction Center reported that a couple tornadoes were possible Sunday afternoon in the southeastern areas of California such as Palm Springs and Blythe.
Temporary closures were in effect at the washes of Indian Canyon, Gene Autry and Vista Chino due to the impending storm, according to Palm Springs police.
The Murrieta Police Department reported road closures in both directions of California Oaks Road between Skyview Ridge and Morning Dove due to a large water main break.
Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams and other low-lying and flood-prone locations. Low-water crossings could be flooded.
“Unnecessary travel is discouraged on Sunday due to the high flooding potential,” forecasters said. “Emergency plans should include the potential for extreme flooding from heavy rain. Evacuations and rescues are likely.”
The NWS warned residents to secure porches, carports and unanchored mobile homes in coastal and valley locations.
Some areas in the mountain and deserts could see over 2 inches of rain per hour during the peak storm period, and up to 10 inches total. Low desert areas could receive 7 inches of rain, with valleys areas getting up to 3 inches forecasters said.
Those living in areas in danger of flooding quickly were advised to prepare to evacuate.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a State of Emergency for much of Southern California to support the Hilary response and recovery efforts as the state continues mobilizing and coordinating resources ahead of the storm’s forecasted impacts.
The governor signed an emergency proclamation Saturday in San Diego while visiting with California National Guard troops. He met with first responders and local officials, including San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. He was also in touch with federal officials, including the White House.
On Sunday morning, the Federal Emergency Management Agency pre- positioned supplies at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, and a FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team deployed to the California Office of Emergency Services and was prepared to assist with any requests for federal assistance. Additional teams were on standby for deployment if necessary, officials said.
Care and reception centers were available at Desert Mirage High School at 86150 66th Ave. in Thermal and at the Banning Community Services Center at 789 N. San Gorgonio Ave. in Banning, both open 24 hours.
Residents requiring help with their animals were encouraged to call the Riverside County Department of Animal Services at 951-358-7387.
The impact of the storm was expected to peak Sunday afternoon and evening, with rain tapering off through Monday evening for most areas.
A tropical storm has not landed in Southern California since 1939.
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