Hurricane Hilary weakens to Category 1, but California still faces danger amid state of emergency

Hurricane Hilary weakened to a Category 1 as it moved closer to the coast of Mexico early Sunday on a continued path to the Baja California peninsula. 

The National Weather Service said the Category 1 was still likely to bring “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding to the region and cross into the southwestern U.S. as a tropical storm.

The most recent advisory at 2 a.m. said that the storm was about 30 miles south of Punta Eugenia, Mexico, and 385 miles from San Diego, California. The maximum sustained wind speed remained unchanged at 85 mph while spreading “heavy rains” northward over the peninsula.

Meteorologists warned that despite weakening, the storm remained treacherous.

HURRICANE HILARY: STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED IN CALIFORNIA AS MILLIONS BRACE FOR LIFE-THREATENING FLOODING

sandbags in front of a house

A home protected with sandbags in Seal Beach, Calif., Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

One person drowned Saturday in the Mexican town of Santa Rosalia, on the peninsula’s eastern coast, when a vehicle was swept away in an overflowing stream. Rescue workers managed to save four other people, said Edith Aguilar Villavicencio, the mayor of Mulege township.

It was not immediately clear whether officials considered the fatality related to the hurricane, but video posted by local officials showed torrents of water coursing through the town’s streets.

sandbag trenches in California

In anticipation of Hurricane Hilary, residents fill sandbags at Wildwood Park, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in San Bernardino,  (Watchara Phomicinda/The Orange County Register via AP)

DESANTIS OFFERS TO ASSIST CALIFORNIA WITH HURRICANE HILARY ‘IN ANY WAY WE CAN’

Forecasters said the storm was still expected to enter the history books as the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, bringing flash floods, mudslides, isolated tornadoes, high winds and power outages. The forecast prompted authorities to issue an evacuation advisory for Santa Catalina Island, urging residents and beachgoers to leave the tourist destination 23 miles off the coast.

California before Hurricane Hilary

Birds fly over the pier before the arrival of Hurricane Hilary, in Ensenada, Mexico, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.  (AP Photo/Alex Cossio)

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed an emergency declaration in preparation of the storms expected to come in force Sunday. 

He said 7,500 personnel were activated in southern California, with close to 4,000 California Highway Patrol members, 2,000 Caltran workers and mutual aid across the region. Newsom warned residents to take seriously any alerts of flash floods, lighting and possibility of tornadoes.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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