Cleanup Underway Following Tropical Storm Hilary

City News Service

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County is cleaning up Tuesday after the weekend pounding it took from Tropical Storm Hilary, which caused severe flooding in parts of the Coachella Valley and stranded some people in their neighborhoods, but “more typical weather conditions” are on tap, according to the National Weather Service.

Rains tapered off Monday morning and had largely departed the region by Monday afternoon, while utility and repair crews worked to resolve power outages, clear mud flows and remove fallen trees and branches.

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.

Westbound I-10 reopened by 12:30 p.m., CHP Sgt. Fanco Castro said, 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.

Eastbound lanes were open Tuesday but most exits were closed, causing traffic to back up as commuters found alternative routes to get to work.

Desert Hot Springs officials 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. Indio police reported Monday afternoon that most of its roads were open as crews worked non- stop to ensure streets became clear and safe to drive on, but Avenue 44 was completely washed out.

Palm Desert city officials announced Tuesday morning that some of its roads were reduced to partial closures.

The Palm Springs Unified School District canceled classes until Wednesday.

Coachella Valley and Desert Sands unified school districts canceled classes Monday and officials said schools would return to normal schedules Tuesday. DSUSD school officials advised anyone with questions to call individual schools Tuesday morning.

Riverside County CEO 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 that members 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 for Monday and resumed some service Tuesday with some detours and affected stops. More information about SunLine transportation routes can be found at

Hilary brought rain to the county well ahead of the storm even made 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.

An evacuation order was issued at around 9 a.m. Sunday 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 evacuation warnings and orders were lifted at 11:41 a.m. Monday.

All College of the Desert sites were closed Monday due to water and debris on site, including the Palm Desert campus, which experienced water intrusion in key areas, college officials said in a statement. Only maintenance and campus safety were conducted at its sites.

College officials said that being ready for instruction the first day of classes is the most important priority, so its resources will focus on getting the spaces ready for Aug. 28.

In the Coachella Valley, several cities reported that 911 services were down, including Palm Springs, which reported Monday that the issue was resolved. The issue was resolved in the area by 7:26 a.m., according to EMD.

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.

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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