Hurricane Hillary has strengthened into a major storm along Mexico’s Pacific coast and will bring heavy rain to the southwestern United States over the weekend.
The storm was expected to develop into a Category 4 hurricane on Friday on a projected track that could threaten landfall on the central Baja California peninsula by Sunday or move offshore as it heads toward southern California.
Hillary was centered about 445 miles (715 kilometers) south of Los Cabos on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. It was moving west-northwest at 14 mph (22 kph), but was expected to move further north in the coming days.
As Hillary moves toward or brushes the Baja Peninsula, it may survive briefly as a tropical storm or tropical depression and may cross the U.S. border, the hurricane center said.
According to the National Weather Service, no tropical storm has made landfall in Southern California since September 25, 1939.
“Precipitation impacts from Hillary across the southwestern United States are expected to peak later this week into Monday,” the hurricane center said. “Flash, urban and arroyo flooding has the potential for significant impacts.”
The area vulnerable to heavy rain could extend into Bakersfield, California, Yuma, Arizona and parts of southern Nevada.
SpaceX announced Thursday that the hurricane delayed the launch of a satellite-carrying rocket from a base on California’s central coast until at least Monday. Conditions in the Pacific would make it difficult for a ship to recover a rocket booster, the agency said.
In Southern California, the Los Angeles Weather Bureau said the outlook for more precipitation continued Sunday through Tuesday.
While the odds are against Hillary making landfall in California as a tropical storm, there is a high chance of heavy rain and flooding, UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said in an online conference Wednesday.
The Mexican government said a weakened Hillary could hit the coast between the towns of Place de Rosarito and Ensenada in Baja California state on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, the city of Yuma is preparing Thursday by offering residents a self-service sandbag filling station.
A stock of sand and empty bags will be kept at the sand bag station. Residents are allowed five sandbags per vehicle.