Hurricane Hilary was downgraded to a Category 2 storm — but is still expected to wreak catastrophic damage as she barrels toward Mexico and southern California.
The history-making storm weakened from its Major Category 3 status at midday Saturday, hours before it is expected to slam Mexico’s Baja California coast.
“Hilary appears to be weakening quickly,” John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, wrote in a Saturday update posted online.
“The eye is filling and the cloud tops in the eyewall and rainbands have been warming during the past several hours.”
Hilary’s top sustained winds Saturday were reported at 110 mph, a significant drop from the 145 mph winds that were recorded just 24 hours earlier.
Despite the downgrade, meteorologists expect the storm to churn up “life-threatening” surf conditions and rip currents — including waves up to 40 feet high — along Mexico’s Pacific coast.
Hilary is expected to bring significant rainfall and “catastrophic” flooding to the peninsula, even as forecasters predict it to downgrade yet again Sunday to a tropical storm as it crosses the US-Mexican border into southern California and Nevada.
Hilary has already canceled hundreds of flights and sporting events in the area as officials prepare for the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years.
Heavy rainfall has already splashed some areas, with buckets more to come over the weekend.
Officials predict said the storm could dump 3 to 6 inches in some areas, with a whopping 10 inches possible in isolated parts of California and Nevada.
Experts say the forecast rain is “unheard of” for this time of year in southern California, and comes after the state was battered by freak weather events last spring that caused widespread flooding. Hilary could even break Nevada’s rainfall record.
Evacuation advisories have been issued on Santa Catalina Island, 23 miles off the California coast, and in San Bernadino County.
Flash floods, mudslides, isolated tornadoes, wind damage and widespread power outages are also expected.
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