As Southern California sees its first tropical storm since 1939, South Orange County cities braced for the onslaught of rain and winds on Sunday, Aug. 20, preparing beaches and offering residents sandbags.
Tropical Storm Hilary, which began off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, is expected to bring between 2 and 4 inches of rain to the area and moderate potential for flash flooding.
Residents in Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano prepared for the storm, gathering sandbags at Whitecap and Ganahl Lumber in San Juan Capistrano, Steed Park and San Gorgonio Park in San Clemente and Fire Station No. 7 in San Juan Capistrano.
Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley encouraged residents to sign up for the County’s mass notification system through AlertOC.
AlertOC offers residents time-sensitive messages via a phone call, text or email. Dana Point residents can text 92629 to 888-777 to register for Nixle alerts.
“What we learned from the oil spill and recent fires in Emerald Bay and Laguna Niguel is that our AlertOC system—not a lot of people were signed up, one; and two, it wasn’t really getting the word out,” Foley said.
“We have fixed that, with regular updates going out and it’s a really great way to stay informed,” Foley continued.
The county has also created a website, ocgov.com/hilary for storm updates.
The heaviest rain is expected between 3-7 p.m., Foley added, with maximum rains reaching 1 inch per hour, “which is a lot for Orange County.”
“Surf could be up to 7 to 8 feet and cause some coastal flooding,” Foley continued. “So that’s why we’re encouraging people today to stay away from the beaches … We just hope everybody will stay out of harm’s way.”
A rain advisory is in effect along the coast as “bacteria can rise significantly in ocean and bay waters adjacent to storm drains, creeks and rivers during and after rainstorms,” recommending that swimmers keep out of the waters.
County and state beaches are temporarily closed because the storm.
“We closed our beaches, our parks, our trails, we’ve closed all of our libraries, all in anticipation of really heavy winds, high surf, flooding and lots of water,” Foley said.
The supervisor added that the county is encouraging people to stay home during the storm.
“We don’t want people on the roads, we don’t want people at the beaches and in the parks,” Foley said. “We want people to stay home today. The weather service tells us that this is going to just be fast, hard and heavy rainfall with strong winds over the next 24 hours, then it’ll be gone.”
In San Clemente, all sports fields, beach access at Riviera, El Portal and Dije Court, as well as the base of the pier underpass, have all been closed.
Trolley services in Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano were all canceled Sunday but are expected to resume on Monday, Aug. 21.
The City of San Clemente also noted that Cyprus Shores and Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens are being closely monitored, as both locations have experienced landslides following storm surges.
The county is also monitoring high-risk areas for flooding, such as the burn areas of Silverado and Williams Canyons, where the county issued a voluntary evacuation warning.
City crews in Dana Point and San Clemente cleared storm drain outlets.
The county prepared for the storm by clearing the flood channel as well, Foley said.
“Not only for debris or anything that might be clogging drains but also for checking to make sure there’s no one sleeping, living or hanging out in the flood channel so that they don’t get swept out in what will likely be very swift water coming through there very soon,” Foley said.
The Santa Ana airport has already received 89 cancellations, Foley said,
“Our airport staff has really looked at all of the airport facilities to make sure there’s no flooding, no incidents, everything’s fine at the airport but the weather is causing 89 flights to cancel,” Foley said. “You have to go check your airlines to see if your flight is actually happening.”
The county has also opened sandbag locations at fire departments, city halls, corporation yards or sanitation districts, “everywhere we can,” Foley said.
In the Dana Point Harbor, the Harbor Patrol and the marina worked to encourage boaters to “batten down the hatches,” Foley said, and secure anything that might be picked up in the wind.
“I’m really proud of our entire emergency operations team, which includes our partners at Orange County Fire Authority, the Sheriff, Orange County Transportation Authority, the airport, public works, our social services,” Foley said. “It’s been a full team at work to get prepared.”
As of 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, the Emergency Operations Center, which was operating remotely, had already received several calls, Foley said.
Dana Point residents can submit requests for service through the Report2DP app.
To reach the non-emergency dispatch, call 949.770.6011.
For more information on Hurricane Hilary, visit the National Hurricane Center.