By Miriam Raftery
Photo by Michael Adam Cohen, award-winning entertainment reporter and photographer: taken near I-8 near Del Cerro
August 21, 2023 (San Diego) – Tropical Storm Hilary has moved northeast out of San Diego County. The storm brought high winds and heavy drenching in many local communities, while others had only moderate rainfall. The storm sparked spectacular lightning storms over East County’s mountains and even prompted a tornado warning for Alpine, Descanso, and other areas.
Though no tornados are known to have touched down, Michael Cohen photographed a funnel cloud near I-8 from his Del Cerro home.
The storm sent giant boulders tumbling onto Interstate 8 at In-ko-pah in East County, where travel on Monday remains restricted to one lane with long delays. The other major highway from southern California to Arizona, I-10, is closed due to flooding.
The storm also caused delays of at least 73 flights and halted train service, compounding headaches for travelers. Over 160 accidents were also responded to Sunday during the storm, according to the California Highway Patrol. This could have been far more, if not for warnings that kept many motorists off the road, saving lives.
According to the National Weather Service, the strongest winds locally occurred on Black Mountain, where gusts up to 84 miles per hour were recorded. Palomar Mountain recorded a 79 mph gust, while Santa Ysabel, Hellhole Canyon,and Sill Hill in Descanso all had 70 mph gusts or more. Potrero had winds roaring at 65 mph, Mt. Laguna and Pine Valley reached 63 and 62 mph respectively, Ranchita 52, Borrego 49, and Julian 47 miles per hour. Even downtown San Diego recorded 44 mph gusts at Petco Park, where Sunday’s Padres game was cancelled due to the storm.
Some parts of Southern California, such as Mount San Jacinto, had nearly a foot of rain. In San Diego County, Ranchita and Mount Laguna each got more than 7 inches of rain on Sunday, while Palomar Mountain had 6.8 inches.
La Mesa had just over 2 inches of rain, but did have flooding on Alvarado Road. Floodwaters at the El Cajon trolley station briefly shut down service. State Route 94 in Spring Valley also had flooding.
Some areas also had power outages for up to several hours.
Hilary peaked as a category 4 hurricane of Mexico, causing substantial damage and at least 1 death south of the border.
The massive storm caused damage across a widespread swath. It caused streets to flood in Las Vegas, left Dodger stadium surrounded by a moat, and broke a dock at Lake Mead in Arizona, causing boats to drift out into the lake.
Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide emergency and deployed the National Guard in advance of the storm. San DIego County has issued an emergency declaration and the San DIego City Council plans an emergency session to consider declaring an emergency. The Biden administration has authorized FEMA to assist Californians who suffered property damage from Tropical Storm Hilary.