Hilary’s toll: some flooding, lots of rain, but little damage
by Steven Felschundneff | email@example.com
Following days of preparation and anxious anticipation, tropical storm Hilary swept through the region on Sunday causing significant flooding in Southern California but largely sparing Claremont.
Hurricane Hilary, which at one point was a class IV storm, made landfall in northern Baja California as a tropical storm on Sunday, according to a bulletin issued at 11 a.m. PDT by the National Hurricane Center. At the time it had sustained winds of 40 mph, just above the 39-mph threshold for being classified as a tropical storm.
“Catastrophic and life threatening flooding likely over Baja California and portions of southwestern U.S. through Monday,” read the Hurricane Center bulletin Sunday afternoon.
Just after noon, the National Weather Service issued flash-flood warnings for the Antelope Valley, Los Angeles County mountains and Santa Clarita Valley.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared a local state of emergency Sunday in advance of the worst portion of the storm reaching the area.
“The Proclamation of Local Emergency enables the County to more effectively respond to the impacts of Tropical Storm Hilary, accelerate the procurement of vital supplies, seek and utilize mutual aid, and potentially obtain reimbursement and assistance from the State and federal government,” according to a statement from the supervisors.
Los Angeles County Consumer and Business Affairs has a web portal at stoppricegouging.dcba.lacounty.gov where people can report storm-related criminal price gouging by retailers such as gas stations and super markets.
As the storm moved over Los Angeles County around 8 p.m. Sunday, Hilary’s sustained winds were 45 mph, although very little wind was felt in Claremont, where wind speeds averaged in the single digits with gusts as high as 19 mph.
Rain began early Sunday morning in Claremont and was pretty steady all day, with the heaviest downpours rolling through just after dark in an oscillating pattern consistent with a tropical storm. The National Weather Service reports Claremont received 3.65 inches of rain on Sunday with another .39 inches in the early morning hours Monday for a total of 4.04 inches. On social media some Claremont residents reported receiving 6.5 inches of rain as recorded in backyard rain gauges.
The “water year” as recorded by the National Weather Service runs from October 1 to September 30, and this storm will be recorded with the massive amounts of precipitation received during the winter and spring. So far Claremont has received an eye popping 41.46 inches of rain, with five weeks left in the water year.
Even though the outcome here was relatively mild Claremont was nonetheless ready for the worst. The city distributed 3,500 sandbags and a little over 100 tons of sand through its Los Angeles County Fire Department stations, according to Public Information Officer Bevin Handel.
“The City is preparing for the upcoming storm,” read a Sunday morning city news release. “Storm drains have been cleared, the Wilderness Park will be closed beginning August 20, staff is on standby and prepared to activate the Emergency Operations Center, and staff is in contact with our utility partners.”
“We had a few reports of branches down and several crepe myrtle trees had branches break at Griffith Park but no reports of flooding or major damage,” Handel said Monday. “Our crews were out yesterday and today cleaning up debris and branches and checking for potholes.” The crepe myrtle trees are in full bloom and the branches were weighed down by the rain causing limb failure.
Claremont police “had no calls for service other than reports of roadway flooding during the heaviest rain when the storm drains were at capacity,” Handel said.
The Monday night concert in the park was cancelled and the Hughes Community Center, Joslyn Senior Center, and Blaisdell Center were closed Monday, including the popular senior lunch programs. Claremont Unified School District does not return to instruction until August 30, but CUSD officials did suspend a handful of student activities that were scheduled for Monday.
City hall stayed open Monday and trash collection kept to its regular schedule. All closed city facilities reopened Tuesday and the Wilderness Park was once again accepting visitors.
During the peak of Sunday’s storm most Claremont residents apparently heeded official warnings and stayed home. A few people were out, either checking out the storm or attending to errands.
Around 5:30 p.m. Tom Kowalski made his way down Cambridge Avenue for his usual five-mile evening run. Although he had to navigate a flooded Bonita Avenue, he was taking the whole experience in stride.
“This is just a nice summer shower,” he said. “It’s cool compared to my usual running in the heat. It’s not worse than what we had in the spring in terms of rain but its 20 degrees warmer.”