A hurricane that just made landfall in Mexico is triggering flood concerns in parts of southern California | CNN (2023)


Hurricane Kay made landfall in Mexico, along the west coast of the central Baja California Peninsula on Thursday afternoon, triggering flooding concerns not just in that region, but in parts of California and Arizona too.

Hurricane conditions were impacting the peninsula Thursday and were expected to last several hours as the storm moved along the coast, according to the National Hurricane Center. Kay had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph at the time of landfall, making it a Category 1 storm. It’s expected to weaken throughout Thursday evening, the center said, but added that tropical storm conditions will spread northward.

Heavy rains will drench southern California Friday – potentially bringing several months to a year’s worth of rain to a normally arid landscape. But that’s not all: As the storm moves north, strong winds – far from providing immediate relief from California’s climate crisis-driven heat wave – actually could push already record temperatures higher in some places.

Flooding is also possible starting Friday in parts of southwest Arizona, the hurricane center said.

(Video) Will Hurricane Kay flood California? It is flooding in Baja California for now...

A girl sprays herself with water in the stands during the second inning of a baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, California, September 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis) Ashley Landis/AP The heat wave scorching California may be the worst in its history and now an offshore hurricane threatens to fan already raging wildfires

Kay is expected to remain at hurricane strength until it’s around 250 miles from San Diego – something only four other storms have done since 1950, according to the National Weather Service – before weakening as it moves toward the US West Coast.

But the storm doesn’t need to be strong “for this to be a major concern for Southern California,” said Brandt Maxwell, a National Weather Service meteorologist in San Diego.

Kay is forecast to track parallel to the Baja California peninsula through Friday, pushing what could be record-breaking amount of moisture into Southern California and Arizona. Then just shy of the US-Mexican border, it will turn westward – away from the coast – as it makes the closest pass to Southern California for a hurricane since 1997’s Hurricane Nora.

A turn to the west is expected by Saturday night, the hurricane center said.

(Video) Hurricane Kay strikes Mexico! Heavy rain causes flooding in Baja California

Winds could gust to more than 60 mph as the system interacts with Southern California’s mountainous terrain. And those winds will be coming from the east, which means they will have a warming effect on coastal cities; as air travels down mountains, it is compressed and its temperature rises.

It will be similar to the Santa Ana wind phenomenon, which typically occurs in the fall and winter. “We are not calling it Santa Ana winds, but they will have characteristics of them as they pass through canyons and the sloped terrain,” Maxwell told CNN.

The warm, dry winds from the east will increase the region’s already considerable fire risk. Temperatures could reach 100 degrees Friday in coastal parts of San Diego and Orange counties.

“This happened in 1984 as a Category 1 Hurricane Marie well southwest of San Diego County forced temperatures to reach 100 in San Diego,” Maxwell said.

Lows could remain in the 80s overnight Thursday and into Friday morning, making sleeping uncomfortable, especially for those without air conditioning.

(Video) Hurricane Kay Making Sea Overflow in Baja California, The Tropical Storm has Wreaked Havoc!

Then, the relentless heat will “end abruptly and unusually” late Friday, weather service in Los Angeles said, as the tropical system’s cloud cover and rainfall move in, drastically reducing temperatures but creating new hazards: heavy rainfall and a flash flood threat.

A year’s worth of rain to parts of Southern California

Even as the Southwest has been mired in a multi-year megadrought, Kay’s rainfall could pose a significant flood danger.

“A Moderate risk for Excessive Rainfall is in effect for portions of Southern California this weekend,” the Weather Prediction Center said Thursday evening. “While Hurricane Kay is not forecast to make landfall in California, associated rainfall will likely still impact the region, with localized regions of heavy rainfall possible.”

Models suggest moisture over this normally dry area will be well above the 99th percentile for this time of year going into the weekend.

ROME, ITALY, AUGUST 08:Tourists refresh themselves at a fountain in Piazza del Popolo, Rome, Italy, on August 08, 2022. Italy has been facing an intense heatwave for several weeks, which has pushed temperatures above the seasonal average. (Photo by Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images First on CNN: The rise in extreme heat is taking a toll on our well-being. It's about to get worse

Even though rainfall is desperately needed across parched Southern California, this much rain over a short period can cause creeks and rivers to rise rapidly.

(Video) Tropical storm Kay hits Mexico | Hurricane Kay hit Baja California | Hurricane Kay update

“It’s never a good thing to get too much rain all at once, a trait all too common among slow-moving tropical storms,” the prediction center said earlier. “Thus, the flash flood potential is summarily also rapidly increasing.”

Rainfall of 2 to 4 inches, possibly up to around 8 inches, is expected throughout the mountainous terrain of Southern California, especially on the eastern slopes.

A warning of moderate risk of excessive rainfall – Level 3 of 4 – is in effect for Friday over portions of Southern California and far southwest Arizona, with a slight risk – Level 2 of 4 – in effect by Saturday across more of Southern California, western Arizona and far southern Nevada.

The National Weather Service forecasts 2 to 4 inches of rain over 36 hours Friday and Saturday at Imperial County Airport in southeastern California; the spot gets 2.38 inches of rain on average each year. If Imperial receives more than 3 inches of rain, it would make this month its wettest September, breaking a record set in 1976.

Intake towers for water to enter to generate electricity and provide hydroelectric power stand during low water levels due the western drought on July 19, 2021 at the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River at the Nevada and Arizona state border. - The Lake Mead reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona border provides water to the Southwest, including nearby Las Vegas as well as Arizona and California, but has remained below full capacity since 1983 due to increased water demand and drought, conditions that are expected to continue. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images) Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images As Colorado River crisis grows, some officials say it's time for feds to make a move on water cuts

The Imperial Valley region is home to one of the nation’s most productive farm belts, especially known for producing winter vegetables for US consumers due to its year-round growing season. The area and nearby regions including Yuma, Arizona, have been dealing with long-term drought and are in contentious negotiations about reducing their hefty water supply from the Colorado River.

(Video) Tropical storm Kay hits Mexico! | Hurricane kay hits Baja California | Fairview fire California

In Palm Springs, California, 2 to 4 inches is forecast through the weekend, pushing toward the typical annual rainfall tally of 4.61 inches. Three inches in Palm Springs would put this month in the top three wettest Septembers for the city and make it the wettest since 1976, when it got 4.17 inches; its average September rainfall is 0.24 inches.

Yuma could see 1.5 inches of rain through the weekend, which would make this month the wettest September there since 2009. The city’s average September rainfall is 0.68 inches.

CNN’s Taylor Ward contributed to this report.


Has a hurricane ever made landfall in California? ›

A hurricane did make landfall in California in the 1800s. In 1858, the San Diego Hurricane brought hurricane conditions to San Diego and Long Beach.

Is there a hurricane in California right now? ›

There are no tropical cyclones in the Eastern North Pacific at this time. There are no tropical cyclones in the Central North Pacific at this time.

Why do hurricanes not hit California? ›

"Essentially, the very cold water that upwells off the California coast and gives coastal California such a cool, benign climate also protects it from hurricanes.

When was the last time California had a hurricane? ›

September 9-10, 2022: Hurricane Kay caused flash flooding in Southern California after downgrading to a tropical storm.

How many hurricanes have hit Southern California? ›

In recorded history, only one hurricane has made landfall in California. It hit San Diego in October 1858 and is estimated to have been at Category 1 strength. In September 1939, a storm that had just weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm came ashore near Long Beach.

When was the largest flood disaster in California's history? ›

December 1861 – January 1862: California's Great Flood

Beginning on December 24, 1861, and lasting for 45 days, the largest flood in California's recorded history occurred, reaching full flood stage in different areas between January 9–12, 1862.

Can California survive a hurricane? ›

While the Golden State can occasionally get hit by moisture-laden remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, getting a direct strike from a storm is exceedingly rare there – records indicate perhaps once a century.

Is California safe from hurricanes? ›

Water temperatures are simply just too cold near California to sustain a hurricane. One of the reasons it's so cool off the California coastline has to do with ocean currents—the California Current in particular. The California Current displaces water at the surface along the West Coast.

Will tropical storm Frank hit California? ›

(FOX Weather)

By Friday, what used to be Frank will be a fizzling trough of low pressure several hundred miles off the California coast. "Tropical storm impacts from Frank are *not* expected here," wrote National Weather Service forecasters in San Francisco.

What states have no hurricanes? ›

Montana features both the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains and is one of the safest states from natural disasters. It is generally safe from hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes, however, it does experience flooding.

Why doesn't San Diego have hurricanes? ›

Though the ocean is getting warmer in spots — and generally warmer overall — the Pacific waters near San Diego are still too cold to feed a hurricane. If a tropical storm were to move north, it would quickly lose strength as it hit the cooler waters, Cayan said.

Has San Diego ever hit a hurricane? ›

CONCLUSIONS. The only tropical cyclone known to produce estimated hurricane-force winds on the California coast affected San Diego on 2 October 1858. Wind damage was largely confined to coastal areas but heavy rains were felt inland and produced some flood- ing.

Why are there no hurricanes in 2022? ›

(WWBT) - The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane season has been off to a quiet start with only three named storms so far this year. A big part of the reason it has been so quiet has been Saharan dust moving off the coast of Africa, which has really been unfavorable for tropical storms and hurricanes to develop.

Will there be any hurricanes in 2022? ›

Another above-average hurricane season is in the forecast for 2022. In 2021, there were 21 named storms, making it the third most active on record in terms of named systems. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) provides a list of the 2022 storm names.

Can California have tornadoes? ›

Tornados are not common in California, however, they do occur. The state has averaged eight to nine a year since 2001, according to NWS.

Has the Pacific coast ever had a hurricane? ›

Back in October 1997, Hurricane Pauline struck Mexico's Pacific coast as a Category 4 storm, leaving more than 200 dead.


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