Aug 21, 2023 - Climate

"Rare and dangerous" Tropical Storm Hilary delays San Diego's first day of school

Imperial Beach as Tropical Storm Hilary approaches San Diego County. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The first tropical storm to strike southern California since 1939 forced San Diego's largest school district to delay back-to-school day.

Driving the news: San Diego Unified School District students were expected to start school Monday, but the district pushed the return to class to Tuesday as the region grappled with Tropical Storm Hilary, which brought heavy rains and flooding.

  • SDSU and Cal State San Marcos students also announced a virtual start to their academic year. The San Diego Community College District is closed Monday.
  • Most other school districts in the county are open Monday.

Threat level: The storm flooded roads and dropped trees and palm fronds, but there have not been any casualties reported in the county so far. Officials reported at least one death in Mexico.

  • 13 people were rescued when a homeless encampment near the San Diego River in the Morena area flooded.
  • 330 San Diego International Airport flights were canceled today and yesterday and another 94 were delayed. Meanwhile, local officials battled road closures, transit detours and power outages into Monday morning.
  • City beaches, libraries, recreation centers and swimming pools are closed, and trash and recycling service has been delayed.
  • The city activated its inclement shelter program for residents experiencing homelessness, offering space at four downtown locations. People staying at the city's safe camping site were relocated to the second floor of Golden Hall.
  • San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria declared a local emergency Sunday, after the county and state did so Saturday.

The impact: The NWS office in San Diego urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel Sunday "due to the high flooding potential." In an online forecast discussion, it termed the flood threat there as "rare and dangerous."

  • As of 11:17pm yesterday, 1.82 inches of rain had fallen at the airport, compared to August's historical average of 0.01 inches, while further east at Mt. Laguna, recorded 7.01 inches by the same time.

Context: The storm is dumping two years or more worth of rain in California's desert areas. It's also bringing tropical rainfall rates, which can be torrential, to areas that have rarely, if ever, experienced them.

The big picture: Hilary struck amid a string of unusual weather events, including scorching heat and massive wildfires in Canada. Climate change has increased the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather events, studies show.

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