As Southern California prepares for the arrival of a rare tropical storm event, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says its search and rescue teams are on alert and ready to respond.

During a community preparedness briefing Friday afternoon, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna announced that the LASD search and rescue teams, including Swiftwater Rescue personnel and rescue aircraft, will be ready to deploy when Hurricane Hilary reaches landfall.

Hilary is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reaches coastal Southern California, but Luna reminded the public that the storm is still expected to create “significant rain, possible flash flooding, severe winds, storm surge, dangerous surf, marine conditions and even possibly tornadoes.”

In response to the dangerous conditions, search and rescue crews have been activated in the event of a catastrophe, with more expected to be on the ready beginning Sunday through Wednesday.

During the press briefing with other Los Angeles County officials, Luna said a County Emergency Operation Center will be established Sunday and will be tasked with managing and coordinating all LASD resources.

Winter and spring storms earlier this year caused flash flooding and necessitated the rescue of dozens of people across the Los Angeles area, particularly in the unhoused community that resides in rivers and creek beds.

Luna said the Sheriff’s Department has been working with homeless outreach partners, including Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and Union Station, to connect the unhoused with temporary housing resources.

hilary radar
Hurricane Hilary radar view. Aug. 18, 2023. (KTLA)

During the storm, patrol units will drive along the roadways at the top of riverbeds to urge anyone living in the areas to leave and seek safer conditions. Beginning Thursday night, LASD helicopters flew over waterways to “assess the area and spot any encampments.”

“They gave P.A. announcements of the impending storm and potential dangers and that will continue to fly over them until the end of the storm,” Luna said. “Additionally, LASD will collaborate with local law enforcement who have jurisdiction in the waterways, to assist them and any potential issues that may arise.”

In addition to the riverbeds, county personnel will also be conducting outreach in Los Angeles County parks.

“We hope that the storm does not cause any damage, and more importantly, there’s no loss of life. But we will prepare for the worst-case scenario,” Luna said, adding that LASD will also offer its resources to affected neighboring counties if called upon.

He urged L.A. County residents to keep informed on the rapidly changing conditions involving the historic weather event, pay attention to local news reports and follow the County’s various social media pages for updates.

“Please have an emergency plan and check on your family and friends who are in high impact areas,” the Sheriff concluded.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn also said that an additional rescue boat has been dispatched to Catalina Island to complement the other two that are currently assigned to the island. Each boat will also have an additional crew member, Hahn said.

“The County of Los Angeles Fire Department has augmented fire and lifeguard resources and we stand ready to respond quickly to all Hilary-related incidents using our ground resources, our boats and our aircraft,” LACoFD Chief Anthony Marrone added.