Tropical Storm Hilary Hits California

A rare tropical storm. A tornado warning. Wind-driven wildfires. And an earthquake.

In case you somehow missed it, Sunday was a day of disaster for California.

It began with strange, wet weather conditions brought by Tropical Storm Hilary. The storm made landfall around midday on the coast of Baja California in Mexico, setting off floods and mudslides as rain poured down in Southern California, especially in the mountain and desert areas that received the heaviest precipitation. The National Hurricane Center’s tropical storm warning for California was the first it ever issued for the region.

At the same time, firefighters were battling a wildfire near the Oregon border that had grown by 2,000 acres overnight, and another in northern Santa Barbara County that was less than 5 percent contained. Then, officials cautioned that the Mojave Desert could see a tornado in the afternoon.

“If you don’t believe in science, you’ve got to believe your own eyes,” Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said on Sunday, referring to catastrophic weather events across the country and the string of brutal “atmospheric river” storms that battered California over the winter. “This is the new reality.”

And then the ground shook.

A 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck near Ojai. It didn’t seem to have caused serious damage; a quake like that is nothing to compare to the 6.7-magnitude earthquake that struck the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1994, which released 125 times as much energy.

Even so, people all the way in Los Angeles, 60 miles southeast of the epicenter, felt the ground swaying. And the temblor was yet another emergency for California officials to juggle, said Jackie Ruiz, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

“Absolutely a busy day,” she told me.

The primary threat to the state is still the storm. Hilary, at one time a major hurricane, had weakened to a post-tropical cyclone by early Monday morning, but forecasters warned that it still bore enough rain to cause “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding.”

Some locations in Nevada and the arid portions of California have been getting more rain in a single day than they ordinarily get in a year, or even two years, according to the National Weather Service — a once-in-a-generation downpour.

“The region near Death Valley is going to be absolutely hammered,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at U.C.L.A, who added that the storms were likely to move boulders and deepen canyons in the notoriously hot valley. “It will transform the landscape.”

As of this writing, it’s difficult to know the full extent of the storm’s effects. There have already been flooded roads, collapsed roofs, downed power lines and stranded cars across Southern California. School administrators in Los Angeles and San Diego canceled classes that were set for Monday.

In many places, the worst of the rainfall wasn’t expected to arrive until early this morning.

Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said on Sunday that he was particularly worried about California’s eastern desert communities, like those in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys, because they lacked the infrastructure to handle so much rain. The worst of the storm was expected to hit that area around 2 a.m. today, he said.

”What we’ve seen so far has been challenging but manageable, but the biggest challenges are still ahead of us,” Ferguson told me last night. “We should have a much better idea by sunrise of the extent of what’s happened.”

Keep up with the latest on the storm.

The rest of the news

Two men who have accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them as children are able to resume their lawsuits against companies owned by the singer, who died in 2009, a California appeals court ruled on Friday.

Democrats in the California State Legislature are debating giving companies as much as $300 million to build hydrogen fueling stations, even though there are relatively few hydrogen-powered cars on the road in the state, CalMatters reports.

Southern California

A man fatally shot a business owner on Friday in front of her clothing store in San Bernardino after a dispute over an L.G.B.T.Q. Pride flag displayed at the store.

The designer Frances Merrill infused a house in West Hollywood with nods to cinema history, drawing inspiration from the former owner, Igor Stravinsky.

Central California

More allegations of deception against Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr., the founders of Bitwise Industries, surfaced in court filings in the company’s bankruptcy case, The Fresno Bee reports.

Northern California

The driverless taxi company Cruise agreed to a request from state regulators to cut in half the number of vehicles it operates in San Francisco after one of its vehicles collided with a fire truck.

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from David Hayashida, who lives in Greenbrae. David recommends a new park in San Francisco:

“Presidio Tunnel Tops Park in San Francisco is an architectural masterpiece. The bluffs of the 14-acre park feature majestic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands and San Francisco Bay. There are well-maintained trails, spacious picnic areas, grass meadows, interactive visitor and youth learning centers, natural play spaces and over 200,000 plants, half of which are native. It’s hard to imagine that directly under the park there are six lanes of traffic whooshing by in the Highway 101 Presidio Parkway tunnels.

The park is situated within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and also functions as a conduit between the Presidio Main Post to the south and Crissy Field and Crissy Marsh to the north. Take the steps down to the marsh and marvel at the diverse bird population before strolling 1.5 miles along the bay to historic Fort Point, right under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Presidio Tunnel Tops Park was designed by the firm that served as project lead for the innovative High Line in New York City. The High Line is fantastic, but I think Tunnel Tops is tops!”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Tell us

A number of Los Angeles landmarks are turning 100 this year, including the Hollywood sign, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Biltmore Hotel downtown.

Do you have any favorite memories of these L.A. institutions? Email a few sentences to [email protected], and please include your name and the city where you live.

And before you go, some good news

When libraries began to reopen after pandemic lockdowns, Joyce Cooper, director of branch services for the Los Angeles Public Library, noticed that more people were using the spaces to work using their laptop computers. So she and her colleagues decided to lean into making libraries an appealing co-working space for Angelenos.

The library system already offers fast, free Wi-Fi, and it recently began a project to install more electrical outlets, as well as hydration stations for people to fill up their water bottles.

“There’s no place like it,” Cooper told The Los Angeles Times. “Where else can you just walk in off the street and get help for whatever you need?”

There are many, many libraries in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times compiled a list of some of the most beautiful and interesting ones to visit, if you’re willing to drive a little.

There’s a library in Manhattan Beach with a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean; a library in Cerritos with a 15,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and a 40-foot replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil; and a library in Glendale in the luxurious former home of a real estate developer, complete with an extensive art and music collection.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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Soumya Karlamangla is the lead writer for the California Today newsletter, where she provides daily insights and updates from her home state. More about Soumya Karlamangla

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