UPDATE: RivCo Cleanup Underway Following Deluge from Tropical Storm Hilary

City News Service

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Tropical Storm Hilary moved out of Riverside County Monday, but the heavy rain Sunday and overnight caused severe flooding in parts of the Coachella Valley, leaving some residents with no way in or out of their city early Monday.

Interstate 10 was closed Monday until around 2 p.m. from Date Palm Drive to Bob Hope Drive. The closure was due to mudslides in the eastern Coachella Valley, according to California Highway Patrol spokesman Jason Montez.

By 12:30 p.m., CHP Sgt. Fanco Castro said, the westbound Interstate 10 reopened, but only two lanes were open between Monterey Avenue and Bob Hope Drive while all four lanes were open west of there. He added that eastbound traffic was being diverted off the freeway at Date Palm Drive and east on Varner Road to re-enter the freeway at Monterey Avenue. There was no expected duration for the eastbound detour.

Officials with the city of Desert Hot Springs initially reported at around 7:30 a.m. Monday that there was no way in or out of the city due to all the road closures in the area, but by 9:45 a.m., three exiting roads reopened.

Roads in Palm Springs also began to reopen through the morning and afternoon, according to the Palm Springs Police Department.

The Palm Springs, Coachella Valley and Desert Sands unified school districts all canceled classes Monday. Only essential staff reported to work, to assess damage and perform necessary repairs, CVUSD officials said.

Riverside County Chief Executive Officer Jeff Van Wagenen declared a local emergency Monday for the entire county. The cities of Palm Springs, Indio, Cathedral City, La Quinta, Palm Desert, Desert Hot Springs and Coachella also issued local emergency declarations.

Mud inundated some streets in Cathedral City, and video from the scene showed multiple vehicles trapped in the muck, including at least one recreational vehicle. The mud also pushed against multiple homes, but the extent of damage to those homes was unclear. One family told ABC7 it got stranded in the mud and spent much of the night on top of a swamped vehicle until crews were able to bring the family to safety.

The California National Guard reported Monday morning that its 330th Military Police Company responded to Cathedral City and Palm Springs to aid the fire departments during rescue operations.

Nearby Palm Desert also reported an array of road closures due to flooding. Video from other cities in the area showed cars swamped with floodwater, but there were no immediate reports of injuries associated with the storm.

Due to the major road closures still in place throughout all Coachella Valley cities, the SunLine Transit Agency suspended its service indefinitely. It will continue to run life-sustaining service only, officials said.

Hilary brought rain to the county well ahead of the storm even making landfall in Southern California. But once it did reach land Sunday afternoon, the rain intensified and storm conditions worsened. National Weather Service forecasters warned residents that potentially dangerous flooding was likely, and there was even a slight chance of tornadoes developing in the area.

“Hilary is now post-tropical with the remnant moisture spreading north of the area,” the NWS reported Monday morning. “Showers will diminish this morning with a chance of showers and thunderstorms for the mountains and deserts for this afternoon.”

A flood watch will be in effect until late Monday night for Riverside County mountains, the Coachella Valley and the San Gorgonio Pass near Banning.

An evacuation order was issued from around 9 a.m. Sunday to 11:41 Monday 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.

All College of the Desert sites were closed Monday due flooding at some of its campus facilities, the college announced on social media. Only maintenance and campus safety will be conducted at its sites.

In the Coachella Valley, several cities reported that 911 services were down, including Palm Springs, which reported Monday that the issue was resolved.

Most of Riverside County received between 1.5 and 4 inches of rain over the 48-hour storm period, with some notable exceptions. Mount San Jacinto reported 11.74 inches, according to the NWS. More than 3.8 inches fell in Palm Desert, 3.23 inches at Palm Springs International Airport and 5.75 inches in Morongo Valley.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a State of Emergency for much of Southern California including Riverside County 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, at the Banning Community Services Center at 789 N. San Gorgonio Ave., 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.

Before Sunday, a tropical storm had not landed in Southern California since 1939.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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