Tropical Storm Hilary could become hurricane and bring rarely seen ‘high impact’ rain to California desert

Tropical Storm Hilary, which formed 470 miles off the coast of Manzanillo, Mexico, became a hurricane Thursday, and could a mix of bring heavy rains, big surf, and flash flooding to regions of California and the Southwest that rarely see such precipitation, according to the forecasters.

“Confidence continues to increase on a significant heavy rainfall/high impact event to unfold and focus across parts of the Southwest and California beginning Saturday to at least Monday,” the National Weather Service said Thursday. ”

The hurrican, which has already clocked sustained winds of 85 mph, is expected to continue advancing northward, parallel to Baja California, potentially intensifying to a major Category 3 or higher hurricane by late Thursday and likely making landfall in Mexico on Sunday.

As the storm continues to advance northward, it may weaken as it moves over colder waters, though even the remnants of the storm that might hit California and the Southwest would represent an “exceedingly rare” and potentially hazardous event for the region, Stefanie Sullivan, a National Weather Service (NWS) forecaster, told The New York Times.

California could experience 5 to 6 inches of rain, and the state’s inland deserts might receive their normal annual rainfail in just 48 hours, while beaches could get between 4 and 7 feet of surf, as well as life-threatening currents.

“I’m not saying this will be a Category 1 Hurricane but it’s going to be awfully close when it arrives in Southern California on late Sunday into Monday,” according to KTLA meteorologist Henry DiCarlo. “When it moves onshore it’s going to bring a lot of rain. Not just for the desert areas but for all of us here in Southern California.”

The state only rarely sees such storm.

One of the last major tropical storms to touch down in California, in 1939, washed homes away in Southern California and killed 48 people.

Parts of Mexico are also on notice, including the popular resort town of Cabo San Lucas.

As the storm continues through the Western US, southern Nevada could receive 4 to 7 inches of rain, while parts of western Arizona could get 2 to 4 inches, according to the NWS.

The heavy precipitation could cause flash flooding in dry regions currently experiencing drought.

Hurricanes are getting stronger, and major ones are getting more likely, because of the climate crisis, according to scientists.

Heavy winds from Hurricane Dora recently exacerbated the catastrophic wildfires on Maui.

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