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Rapt attention

Friday, August 18, 2023

Eye of the Hilary


My plan was to do the Long Beach Flea Market on Sunday rain or shine. Frankly, I could use the money. Years ago when we got our start at the flea markets, we had some notable Rose Bowl days in the rain. But this storm seems a bit different

Concern is growing Hurricane Hilary will unleash a prolific amount of flooding rainfall on the southwestern US and parts of California as it makes a rare move over the region Sunday and into early next week, triggering the first ever tropical storm watch for California.

Hilary could dump more than a year’s worth of rain in parts of three states: California, Nevada and Arizona. Because of the threat, parts of California face a rare high risk for excessive rainfall. This Level 4 of 4 threat is the first to ever be issued for this part of Southern California.

Hilary was a powerful Category 4 hurricane churning about 400 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Friday morning with sustained winds of 145 mph with stronger gusts, the National Hurricane Center said.

As it is currently is projected, it looks like it is headed straight for us. This one will have a very wide spread and will impact all of Southern California, much of Arizona and even Nevada. I heard this morning that it might even reach Idaho. They are handing sandbags out in Yuma right now. 

Fueled by extremely warm waters, Hilary’s maximum sustained winds have increased by 75 mph in 24 hours, more than double the rate defined as rapid intensification.

The rain is supposed to start here in Fallbrook midday tomorrow and not let up until Monday afternoon. It is one thing to work in intermittent or light rain and another to work in heavy rain and potential seventy five mph winds. 

Of course antique pickers and clients are crazy people. Somebody will probably go out and have a great day, score something incredible. But it won't be me, I am afraid.

Being able to see such a large eye on the satellite photos is not a good sign, according to meteorologists. The cone is wide and I expect that the effects will be severe. Stock up on water, candles, flashlight batteries and provisions and travel as little as possible. Just in case.

The last tropical storm to make landfall in California was in 1939. It was a whopper

The storm dropped heavy rain in California, with 5.66 inches (144 mm) falling in Los Angeles (5.24 inches or 133 millimetres in 24 hours) and 11.60 inches (295 mm) recorded at Mount Wilson, both September records. Over three hours, one thunderstorm dropped nearly 7 inches (180 mm) of rain on Indio. 9.65 inches (245 mm) fell on Raywood Flat, and 1.51 inches (38 mm) on Palm Springs. 4.83 inches (123 mm) fell on Pasadena, a September record at the time. At the Citrus Belt near Anaheim, at least 4.63 inches (118 mm) of rain fell. The 11.60 inches (295 mm) at Mount Wilson is one of California's highest rainfall amounts from a tropical cyclone, although at least one system has a higher point maximum. The rains caused a flood 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 m) deep in the Coachella Valley with heavy rain immediately preceding the tropical storm dropping 6.45 inches (164 mm) the day before the storm hit. The Los Angeles River, which was usually low during September, became a raging torrent.

With heavy rain immediately preceding the tropical storm, flooding killed 45 in Southern California. At sea, 48 were killed. However, the National Hurricane Center only attributes 45 deaths to this system. Six people caught on beaches drowned during the storm. Most other deaths were at sea. Twenty-four died aboard a vessel called the Spray as it attempted to dock at Point Mugu. The two survivors, a man and a woman, swam ashore and then walked five miles (8 km) to Oxnard. Fifteen people from Ventura drowned aboard a fishing boat named Lur. Many other vessels were sunk, capsized, or blown ashore.

Here is a picture of Long Beach in the 1939 storm.


Baja fishermen called that storm El Cordonazo, the lash of St. Francis. I have been caught in a storm like that in Palm Springs before, but obviously not as bad. Leslie and I were in the 1993 storm that brought 17 inches of rain in a short period and were trapped in our canyon for two weeks because of slides.

The Palm Springs area is expected to get hit hard once again with Hurricane Hilary.

It was a time before exact records are kept but the only known hurricane to actually hit California occurred in San Diego October 2, 1858. Hurricanes are rare here because the cold water in our area usually dissipates their strength before they make landfall. By the way, hurricanes had no names back then.

1858 hurricane - wind speeds not indicated

The San Diego Herald published this account of the fierce onslaught:

“About 11 o’clock A.M. of Saturday, 2d instant, a terrific gale sprung up from the S.S.E. and continued with perfect fury until about 5 P.M., when it somewhat abated, and rain commenced to fall. It blew with such violence, and the air was filled with such dense clouds of dust, that it was impossible to see across the Plaza, and it was with the greatest difficulty that pedestrians could walk the streets. The damage to property was considerable; houses were unroofed and blown down, trees uprooted, and fences destroyed. It is said to have been the severest gale ever witnessed in San Diego.”

Three schooners in the water offshore were damaged in the storm. Bear in mind that in 1860, the total population was 731. If the same storm happened today the effects and damage would be in the billions of dollars, not to mention human losses.

And as we have seen repeatedly, if an event happens once in a region, it can certainly happen again, whether it be a fire, hurricane, flood or earthquake.

Of course, we have also seen people get all riled up and killer storms fizzle out and amount to nothing. Let's hope nobody gets hurt too badly with this one. But get ready.

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Where to get sandbags.

  • Fallbrook: Pala Mesa Fire Station #4, 4375 Pala Mesa Drive, Fallbrook, CA 92028, P: 760-723-2024

1 comment:

Blue Heron said...


Richard Neuman
5:58 PM (8 minutes ago)
to me

I think this was the storm that resulted in the husband of my high school Spanish teacher being washed away in a flash flood near plaster city and killed. I was shocked because of the personal association, but also by the fact that that flood happened some thing like 10 miles from the foothills. It’s looking to me like flooding will be even more extensive on the coastal side of the foothills during this storm. Note: I worked in emergency preparedness after hurricane Iniki. So I don’t just have a vague fears. I have pretty focused fears about results from these kind of events. I was going to send you a message yesterday, but figured your prior experiences were all you needed to understand this for yourself.
https://www.musicbyalan.com/FLOOD.html