Hilary intensified from a tropical storm into a Category 2 hurricane in the Pacific Thursday as it tracks up the coast of Mexico and toward Southern California.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Hilary had maximum winds of 105 mph and could perhaps skim the coast of the Baja California peninsula by the weekend.
Satellite and radar show the storm continues to be on a track to reach Southern California, but will likely weaken as it moves over cooler water.
“I’m not saying this will be a Category 1 Hurricane but it’s going to be awfully close when it arrives in Southern California on late Sunday into Monday,” KTLA meteorologist Henry DiCarlo said.
The outlook for excessive rainfall in Southern California stretches from Sunday to Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles weather office.
A hurricane reaching Southern California would be extremely rare. The last one to make landfall was in 1858 in San Diego. No tropical storm has made landfall in Southern California since Sept. 25, 1939, according to the National Weather Service.
Tropical storm watches were issued Thursday for the southern portion of Baja California Sur, the Hurricane Center stated in its forecast.
Hilary is forecast to reach Category 3 status at some point on Saturday.
The storm is forecast to drop several inches of rain on the Southland, especially in the desert areas where upwards of ten inches of rain could fall.
“When it moves onshore it’s going to bring a lot of rain. Not just for the desert areas but for all of us here in Southern California,” Henry said.
Damaging winds and areas of flash flooding are also possible.
The City of Beverly Hills was the first to announce it would make sandbags available to residents. Other cities are expected to follow.
High surf between 4 to 7 feet will crash along the southeast and south-facing beaches, according to a tweet from the NWS.
“Residents on Catalina Island could be most vulnerable,” the tweet stated.
The 1939 tropical storm came ashore near San Pedro, bringing large waves and heavy rain.
The majority of damage struck the Belmont Shore area in Long Beach, where some homes were washed out to sea. 48 people died in the storm.