Panic-stricken Californians raced to escape mudslides and climbed trees to safety from dangerous floodwaters as historic Tropical Storm Hilary barreled through the region, leaving scenes of devastation in its wake.
The Golden State’s first tropical storm in 84 years, Hilary drenched some areas with more than half an average year’s worth of rain, creating dangerous driving conditions that caused multiple vehicles to spin out of control, and in some cases, even crash.
Harrowing video shot on northbound 5 Freeway in Castaic, Los Angeles County, shows multiple vehicles fishtailing and hydroplaning on a flooded road, as reported by KTLA.
A white van is seen spinning out of control and nearly wrecking on the slick blacktop.
Several cars, some appearing damaged, are seen resting on the shoulder on the roadway, with one of them caught on video getting hit by an out-of-control silver SUV.
Crews at Fire Station 99 in the Forest Falls area heard a loud noise Sunday and ventured outside to check it out, discovering a mudslide racing down the hill, as seen in a video.
Firefighters sought to outrun the mudslide as it uprooted trees and anything else in its path. They ultimately found refuge back at their fire station across the road, but became stranded by the debris. There were no reports of injuries.
Elsewhere in San Bernardino County, flash floods reportedly forced some residents in Seven Oaks to flee their homes and climb trees for safety.
The storm was projected to weaken as it continued churning northward over California and into Nevada, but Richard Pasch, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, said “very heavy” rain and strong winds are still likely.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami downgraded Hilary to a post-tropical storm in its early Monday advisory, but warned that “continued life-threatening and locally catastrophic flooding” was expected over portions of the southwestern US throughout the day.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school system, said all campuses would be closed Monday, as did districts across the region.
San Diego schools postponed the first day of classes from Monday to Tuesday.
Initially classified as a hurricane, Hilary wreaked havoc in Southern California throughout the day Sunday, drenching the region from the coast to the desert resort city of Palm Springs and inland mountains.
Fire crews rescued 13 people from knee-deep water in a homeless encampment along the rising San Diego River and pumped floodwaters out of the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.
In San Diego, Sunday marked the wettest day on record in the city, with 1.82 inches, the National Weather Service said in a post on X, previously known as Twitter. The previous record was on Aug. 17, 1977, when 1.8 inches post-Hurricane Doreen dumped record rainfall on the area.
Meanwhile, Palm Springs saw nearly 3.18 of rain by Sunday evening. The local police department warned that 911 lines were down.
The highest total of rain was recorded at Lewis Ranch with 7.04 inches, followed by Leona Valley, which notched 6.97 inches by early Monday, the National Weather Service reported.
Before Hilary ever made its presence known in California, residents were rattled by a 5.1-magnitude earthquake in the city of Ojai, about 80 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. It was felt widely and was followed by aftershocks.
There were no immediate reports of major damage or injury.
The dramatic storm first made landfall in Mexico’s dry and sparsely populated Baja California peninsula Sunday, leaving one person dead as a result of drowning in Mugele, when a car was swept away by a swollen stream. Rescue workers saved four other people.
It then moved through mudslide-prone Tijuana, threatening the flimsy, shanty-style homes that cling to hillsides just south of the US border.