State Watch

Hurricane Hilary intensifies in Pacific, threatening California

Hurricane Hilary has grown stronger off the west coast of Mexico and is on track to be the first tropical storm to reach California in 84 years.

The Category 4 storm had winds of 145 mph as of Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. Still over the ocean, it’s expected to make landfall on the Baja California peninsula in Mexico on Saturday night and reach California by Sunday.

Forecasters expect the hurricane to weaken to a tropical storm by the time it reaches the U.S. No tropical storm has reached the Golden State since 1939.

“Heavy rainfall in association with Hilary is expected to impact the Southwestern United States through next Wednesday, peaking on Sunday and Monday,” the National Hurricane Center said.

“Rainfall amounts of 3 to 6 inches, with isolated amounts of 10 inches, are expected across portions of southern California and southern Nevada, which would lead to significant and rare impacts. Elsewhere across portions of the Western United States, rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches are expected,” the group added.

The storm has intensified greatly in the last 24 hours, with wind speeds increasing by about 75 mph since early Thursday, the center said. 

It is currently moving west-northwest, but forecasters have high confidence it soon will be pushed north by winds and make its way toward the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Hilary is expected to strengthen slightly over the course of Friday but begin to weaken as it moves north and approaches cooler water. Cooler water disrupts the temperature differences that drive hurricanes, weakening their forces.

Forecasters are unsure of exactly where it will make landfall in Baja California because it is moving northward along the coast, but warn that no matter the exact location, impacts will be felt throughout the region.

“Hilary’s exact landfall probably won’t make much difference when it comes to the expected hazards and impacts in the region,” the hurricane center said.

The hurricane center forecast warns Mexicans and Californians to prepare for extreme rain, flash flooding and high winds in the coming days.

Updated at 7:38 a.m.

Tags California hurricanes Mexico tropical storm weather