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For the first time in 84 years, California is bracing for a potential hurricane as Hilary churns in the Pacific.
The storm, located just off of Mexico’s west coast, is currently packing winds of over 100mph. Hilary is forecast to strengthen into a major hurricane over the next 48 hours, before weakening slightly as it nears shore. The most recent current forecast shows the storm inland near San Diego by Monday morning with 60mph winds.
If Hilary maintains its path, it will be only the third tropical storm to strike California in recorded history. Most recently, Hurricane Nora, maintained tropical storm strength as it crossed into the state from Mexico in 1997. Before that, the only other instance is the 1939 Long Beach storm, which remains the only tropical storm to make landfall in the state.
Hurricane Hilary highlights harmful effects of climate crisis
The unusual forecast comes as rising global temperatures lead to increased ocean waters in the eastern Pacific. According to the Washington Post, water temperatures in the region are running 5-7 degrees above average.
Flood watches are already posted for much of Southern California ahead of Hurricane Hilary’s approach, as well as southern Nevada, southwest Utah and western Arizona.
Palm Springs, Twentynine Palms and other inland California cities could see a year’s worth of rainfall in one day.
Parts of Northern California were devastated by flood earlier this year after massive storms hit the state.
Possible California hurricane and devastating Hawai’i wildfires most recent examples of increasing extreme weather
But California isn’t the only western state feeling the effects of extreme weather this year.
Just last week, a strong hurricane passing south of Hawai’i brought strong winds that drove devastating wildfires across Maui. The town of Lahaina was hardest hit, with much of the city destroyed. The fire moved so quickly that many people were unable to escape before flames engulfed entire neighborhoods. At least 111 people are now confirmed dead in those fires, with more than 1,000 still missing.
These rapidly intensifying hurricanes are becoming increasingly common across the globe. In the course of just 18 hours, Hilary’s winds strengthened from 50mph on Wednesday night to 110mph by Thursday afternoon.
Hurricane or tropical storm watches could be issued for the California coast as early as Friday night as Hurricane Hilary approaches.