(WGHP) – For the first time in 84 years, California is experiencing a tropical storm. 

According to the National Weather Service in Los Angeles, the last time California took a direct hit from a tropical storm was on Sept. 25, 1939.


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To put that into perspective, the last time California had a tropical storm, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, World War II had just started and LaGuardia Airport opened in New York. 

The current naming system we have for hurricanes was also not yet around the last time the Golden State took a direct hit which means the Sept. 25 storm was known as “The 1939 Long Beach Tropical Storm”. 

While it’s rare for California to see tropical systems, it’s not completely out of the question. The National Weather Service shares, since 1950, there have been six tropical storms that have happened near Southern California.

In September 2022, Tropical Storm Kay made landfall along the Baja California coast but its center of circulation never reached southern California. 

Typically, when talking about natural disasters in California, we mention earthquakes or wildfires. California is known for being a drier state and so is the majority of the southwestern United States. 

With that being said, rainfall is rare and especially tropical rainfall. On Sunday, Palm Springs, California, received 3.18 inches of rain. 

Motorists deal with a flooded road and stuck vehichles during heavy rains from Tropical Storm Hilary in Palm Springs, California, on August 20, 2023. Heavy rain lashed California on August 20 as Tropical Storm Hilary approached from Mexico, bringing warnings of potentially life-threatening flooding in the typically arid southwestern United States. (Photo by DAVID SWANSON / AFP) (Photo by DAVID SWANSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Now, on a typical day in the Triad, that’s a lot of rainfall in a short period of time but in Palm Springs, that’s 68% of their annual rainfall! 

To put it in perspective, if Greensboro received 68% of annual rainfall like Palm Springs did on Sunday, we would have to observe almost 30 inches of rain in 24 hours. 

According to the NWS Los Angeles, Downtown L.A. recorded 2.48 inches of rainfall on Sunday making it the wettest August day ever. The previous wettest day was August 17, 1977, when 2.06 inches of rain was recorded.

The National Weather Service in Los Angeles released two-day rainfall totals that showed Beverly Hills received 4.80 inches of rain and Santa Monica observed 3.56 inches. Other notable rainfall totals include 4.92 inches of rain in the Hollywood Reservoir, 2.54 inches observed at LAX and 3.56 inches of rainfall recorded in Burbank.

Normal rainfall in August for the majority of Southern California is either zero or near-zero inches. So, in a month that typically doesn’t see any rain, receiving 20% or greater of their yearly rainfall means flash flooding. 

Flooding was a huge concern this weekend and will likely remain a concern until the water is able to drain. 

On Sunday, the Weather Prediction Center released a statement in their precipitation discussion stating, “Life-threatening and locally catastrophic flash flooding expected through this evening in association with Tropical Storm Hilary.” 


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A high risk for flash flooding is in place for southern California and Nevada. This is the first time Nevada has experienced a high risk for flash flooding. 

Not only did California experience a tropical storm on Sunday but they also observed a tornado warning and an earthquake. 

While the center of Tropical Storm Hilary moved into Southern California, a tornado warning was issued just east of San Diego and a 5.1 magnitude earthquake hit Ojai, CA.