As Hurricane Hilary intensifies and heads toward Southern California, many coastal communities are bracing for the possibility of flooding.

Many people were enjoying a day at the beach ahead of what is supposed to be a tumultuous weekend as the ongoing heat will transition into strong winds, big waves, intense rain and possible flash flooding. 

“It’s summertime,” Hermosa Beach resident Juliet Recososa said. “It’s supposed to be hot. We have had really hot weather the last few weeks and months, I would say, and all of a sudden, we have this?” 

Shiela Melendez, another Hermosa resident, said the weather changes all too quickly.  

“It’s a sudden change of climate, actually,” she said. “The weather nowadays is kind of weird. It’s like the blink of an eye, it changes.”  

tropical storm hilary path
Hurricane Hilary’s potential path. Aug. 17, 2023. (NOAA)

Right now, Hurricane Hilary is gathering strength off the Coast of Mexico, but it is expected to weaken as it reaches Southern California’s cooler ocean temperatures. Experts predict it will be downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it moves into the area.  

While there have been other tropical storms, it does not happen often in SoCal.  

“We really haven’t seen a direct hit from tropical storms very much at all,” Adam Roser, with the National Weather Service, said. “There was a hurricane that hit San Diego back in the 1850s. Only a couple of systems have really made a direct hit on the state of California, on Southern California.” 

The last time a tropical storm caused destruction in Southern California was in Sept. 1939, hitting Long Beach and San Pedro. Heavy rain and huge waves seriously damaged Belmont Shore in Long Beach, yanking homes off their foundations and washing them out to sea.  

In Hermosa Beach, crews were clearing out a storm drain by the pier Thursday morning, anticipating anywhere from 2-3 inches of rain.  

“We don’t know what the final track is going to be for Hurricane Hilary, but it has the potential to bring some large surf our way,” A.J. Lester with L.A. County Fire Lifeguards said. “There’s some weather potential that could cause some thunderstorms and lightning strikes, especially on our beach and then rough seas depending on how much wind we actually get along the coast.”  

For Candance Norville, founder of Ivy House Art Gallery in downtown Hermosa, a big concern involves her store’s antique stained glass windows and front doors, originally installed in the 60s.

“We have some big, huge pieces of wood and scrap canvases that we’re going to use to wrap the windows and doors so that we can try to protect that and possibly tarp the roof as well,” she explained.  

Officials with the L.A. County said they are ready to clear the beaches if there are thunder and lightning strikes. Beachgoers should check in with lifeguards before heading into the water due to the potential of high surf and boaters are encouraged to stay out of the ocean waters on Sunday and Monday.