Hillary develops into a major hurricane in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico and could bring heavy rains to the southwestern United States


Mexico (AP) – Hurricane Hillary strengthened into a major storm Thursday night off Mexico’s Pacific coast and could bring heavy rains to the southwestern United States by the end of the week.

The US National Hurricane Center said Hillary’s maximum sustained winds rose to 120 mph (195 km/h), making it a Category 3 hurricane.

The storm was expected to develop into a Category 4 hurricane on Friday while on a projected path that threatens to make landfall on the central Baja California peninsula by Sunday or possibly remain offshore as it heads into Southern California.

Hillary was stationed about 445 miles (715 kilometers) south of Los Cabos on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. It was moving west-northwest at 14 mph (22 kph), but was expected to take a more northerly direction in the coming days.

The hurricane center said that while Hillary is moving or combing the Baja Peninsula, it is likely to live briefly as a tropical storm or tropical depression and cross the US border.

No tropical storm has made landfall in Southern California since Sept. 25, 1939, according to the National Weather Service.

“The effects of precipitation from Hillary in the southwestern United States are expected to peak this weekend through Monday,” the Hurricane Center said. “Flash and urban flooding and arroyo are possible with potential for significant impacts.”

The area likely to be affected by the heavy rainfall could stretch from Bakersfield, California, to Yuma, Arizona, as well as some parts of southern Nevada.

SpaceX announced Thursday that the hurricane has delayed the launch of a rocket carrying a satellite from a base on California’s central coast until at least Monday. The company said conditions in the Pacific could make it difficult for the ship to recover the booster.

In Southern California, a heavy rain forecast was extended from Sunday to Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Bureau of Meteorology.

While the odds are against Hillary making landfall in California as a tropical storm, there is a high chance of heavy rain and major flooding, UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said in an online briefing Wednesday.

The Mexican government said a weakened Hillary could hit the coast Sunday night between the cities of Playas de Rosarito and Ensenada in the state of Baja California.

Meanwhile, the city of Yuma was preparing Thursday by providing residents with a self-service sandbag filling station.

The sandbag station will be supplied with sand and empty bags for self-filling while supplies last. Residents were allowed five sandbags per vehicle.

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