Category 4 Hurricane Hilary churns toward Southwest US, California with threats of rare, dangerous flooding

Hurricane Hilary underwent rapid intensification in the Pacific Ocean, strengthening from a tropical storm to a large and powerful Category 4 hurricane in less than 48 hours.

The FOX Forecast Center expects the powerful storm to strengthen to a Category 5 at some point this weekend as it crawls toward the western coast of the U.S.

While Hilary won't hit the U.S. at hurricane strength, the Baja California peninsula and the southwestern U.S. will feel the after-effects, with flooding and fierce winds as the main threats.

Although it is too soon to determine the location and magnitude of impacts, areas of concern in the storm's path should monitor the progress and updates to the forecast, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warns. 

Where is Hurricane Hilary?

The center of Hurricane Hilary is packing 130 mph winds and is moving northwest at 12 mph. The storm is a little less than 100 miles west-northwest of Socorro Island and is 310 miles south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.

The center of Hilary will move close to the west coast of the Baja California peninsula over the weekend and reach southern California by Sunday night.

What's the latest update on Hurricane Hilary?

International officials as well as the NHC have issued several warnings and watches for Baja California peninsula and mainland Mexico due to Hilary.

Alerts from the National Hurricane Center.(FOX Weather)

A Hurricane Watch is issued when hurricane-force high winds (sustained winds of 74 mph or greater) are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours. These winds may be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding and/or river flooding.

A Tropical Storm Warning is issued when tropical storm-force winds (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected within the alerted area within 36 hours. And a Hurricane Watch is issued when winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 48 hours.

What is the forecast for Hurricane Hilary?

Hilary's forecast track. (FOX Weather)

 Weakening is expected to begin by Saturday, but Hilary will still be a hurricane when it approaches the West Coast of the Baja California peninsula Saturday night and Sunday, the NHC said.

Hilary is expected to weaken to a tropical storm by Sunday afternoon before it reaches Southern California.

Crews prepare for the remnants of Hurricane Hilary in Seal Beach, Calif. 

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 290 miles.

Tracking Hilary. (FOX Weather)

What are the impacts of Hurricane Hilary?

Hurricane Hilary is expected to bring 3-6 inches of rainfall and up to 10 inches in isolated areas across parts of Baja California by Sunday night, warns the NHC. Flash flooding may occur.  Elsewhere across portions of the western U.S., rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches are expected.

Heavy rainfall associated with Hilary may produce areas of flash flooding and result in landslides over portions of the Baja California Peninsula from late Friday until late Sunday, the NHC said.

Rainfall impacts from Hilary within the southwestern U.S. are expected to peak this weekend into Monday. Flooding is expected with the potential for significant impacts.

Rain forecast amounts. (FOX Weather)

The threat of hurricane-force wind impacts is increasing along the west-central coast of the Baja California Peninsula, where a Hurricane Watch is in effect. Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin across the southern portion of the Baja California Peninsula later Friday and then spread north through the weekend.

The NWS issued a Flood Watch from Saturday Morning through Monday afternoon. (FOX Weather)

The threat of significant wind impacts continues to increase for the northern portions of the Baja California peninsula and Southwestern U.S., especially in areas of mountainous terrain. 

Large swells from Hilary will spread north along southwestern Mexico and the Baja California Peninsula. These swells will reach the Gulf of California and northern portions of the Baja California peninsula later this weekend.

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