Hurricane Hilary Inbound — Record Winds And Rain In Store For SW US

August 17, 2023

Humid and hot this near-noon Thursday here in California’s Central Valley — hopefully this will be the final triple-digit days for at least a while as we venture into less warm episodes, though, in no way could it be categorized as anything approaching  ‘cool,’ just less scorching.

Oddly enough, we could get rain by Sunday or Monday as blowback off Hurricane Hilary now slushing toward Mexico and should scream its way north through Baja California tonight and then into the southern stretch of my heated-neck of the woods. And Hilary (no, not ‘Hillary‘) is a major force:

“Rapid strengthening is forecast, and Hilary could become a major hurricane by tonight or early Friday,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its most recent forecast, issued around 5am PT. Storms that are category 3 or higher are considered major hurricanes, meaning it has winds of at least 111mph (179km/h).

Quick the point:

And as with just about everything to do with our crazy-ass environment, there are records to be broken:

Jeff Masters and Bob Henson, two of the best climate/weather guys around (been following them for years, going back to WeatherUnderground) with a deep look at Hilary this morning at Yale Climate Connections — some snips:

It’s very rare to see Southern California placed in the forecast cone for a hurricane, and this large and very wet hurricane poses a rare significant heavy rain threat for the Southwest U.S. early next week.

As of 11 a.m. EDT Thursday, Hilary was a category 1 storm with top sustained winds of 85 mph and a central pressure of 980 mb, located about 365 miles south-southwest of the tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, headed west-northwest at 14 mph. Heavy rains from the hurricane were affecting portions of southwest Mexico, and an outer spiral band from the hurricane was approaching the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. Hilary had rapidly intensified by 45 mph in the 24 hours since it formed at 11 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

A trough of low pressure off the California coast and a near-record-strength ridge of high pressure over the central U.S. will provide a well-defined steering flow for Hilary, turning the storm to the northwest on Friday and north-northwest on Saturday, taking the hurricane on a course roughly parallel to the coast of Baja Mexico. On this track, Hilary will bring heavy rains to Baja beginning on Thursday evening, with these rains spreading northward along the peninsula through the weekend.

The hurricane is embedded in a very moist air mass, with midlevel relative humidity around 80%. Rainfall amounts of three to six inches are possible throughout Baja California, with localized totals of 10 inches on the peninsula, bringing the risk of flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas.

Hilary has nearly ideal conditions for intensification over the next two days, with warm ocean waters near 30 degrees Celsius (86°F), low wind shear, and a very moist atmosphere. The SHIPS, LGEM, and HAFS-B intensity models and the official NHC forecast are very bullish with the intensity forecast, with NHC calling for Hilary to peak as a major category 4 hurricane on Saturday, when it will be making its closest approach to the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. The 12Z Thursday SHIPS model gave Hilary a 100% chance of rapidly intensifying by at least 50 mph in 36 hours – an unusually aggressive forecast of rapid intensification. However, three of our top dynamical intensity models – the HAFS-A, HMON, and HWRF models – were much less aggressive, calling for Hilary to peak as a category 2 storm on Saturday. Thus, the intensity forecast has considerable uncertainty.

Highly recommend to go read the whole piece, Masters and Henson are most-excellent old hands at weathering news. Great detail/information noted. This storm is a giant, and although Southern California, especially San Diego, could experience shitty weather next week, our place here in the mid-Central Valley is still a mystery on the intensity level.
Supposedly, we’ll get rain but how much is unknown right now.

However, does look really, really wet:

Rain-soaked, or not, yet here we are once again…

(Illustration out front from the UN’s International Children’s Painting Competition, and found here.)

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