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What was left of Hilary brought heavy rain to parts of Southern California


What's left of Hurricane Hilary has been bringing heavy rain to parts of Southern California that have rarely, if ever, experienced a tropical storm.


Some roads are underwater, and the nation's second-largest school district won't open today, and millions are being told just stay home.

MARTÍNEZ: Erin Stone with LAist has been riding out the storm in Palm Springs. Erin, lots of concerns about high winds, heavy rain in the mountains, maybe causing some floods either in coastal cities or desert communities. How bad has it been?

ERIN STONE, BYLINE: Yeah. There was significant flooding across the region, but as expected, mountain and desert communities, especially the San Bernardino Mountains and the Coachella Valley here where I'm at, saw the heaviest impacts and most flash flooding. Here in the desert, the soils are so dry that they can't absorb this much water at once. And many streets are actually part of the flood control system here. So they are expected to flood during heavy rains. But there hasn't been as widespread an impact to life as officials originally worried. It seems like the public largely heard the message to prepare ahead of time and stay home, which helped a lot. So that old adage better safe than sorry seems to have been the wisdom of the weekend.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. I went nowhere on Sunday. Normally I'd be out, but I didn't. Now, a lot of rain all over Southern California. What can you tell us about where this storm has maybe packed the biggest punch?

STONE: Yeah. So this is the first tropical storm to actually land in Southern California in several decades. So it's fair to say most residents across the region have no living memory of what it is to experience something like this. The storms have broken daily rainfall records across Southern California, so from downtown LA to Palm Springs. Here in Palm Springs, for example, we saw more than half a year's worth of rain in just one day. And as you know, schools in the region have also decided not to start class today. Roads have turned to rivers, and there have been dangerous muddy debris flows in burn scars and waterways.

Emergency responders have had to rescue and evacuate dozens of people, including a mobile-home park here in the Coachella Valley and a homeless encampment along the San Diego River. And the city of Palm Springs even had its 911 call line go down, though people can still text. But, you know, the worst of the storm was largely within what governments and emergency responders have expected and prepared for. And there really haven't been widespread threats to life.

MARTÍNEZ: And then in the middle of the day yesterday, just as everyone's getting ready for all the weather, all the wet weather, there was an earthquake, which, of course, Erin, I slept right through. And there was this hashtag, #hurriquake. Tell us about that.

STONE: Yeah. That's California for you, right, A? Yeah, a hurriquake. It's been reported it was a 5.1-magnitude earthquake near Ojai in Ventura County. That's about 80 miles northwest of LA. And, you know, there were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries. And it also wasn't related to the storm. It wasn't related to the tropical storm. It was just a good old-fashioned coincidence.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. It's got to be a 6 to wake me up, unfortunately. So what's the day ahead look like?

STONE: At this point, we're only dealing with remnants of the storm, which we're anticipating will be downgraded to a tropical depression. And it's expected to continue to die down this morning. Skies down here in Palm Springs are expected to be back to their usual sunniness by early afternoon. Through Monday, it'll be moving up into Nevada, into the Pacific Northwest, dying out on the way. So once Southern Californians wake up today, the damage assessments can begin in full.

MARTÍNEZ: Absolutely. Erin Stone with member station LAist. Thanks a lot, Erin.

STONE: Thanks, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Erin Stone