Hurricane Kay to be Southern California’s closest brush with a cyclone in 25 years

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Western states sweltering under an intense heat wave may soon see heavy rain and threats of flooding as Hurricane Kay travels north over the Pacific Ocean.

Kay, whose winds strengthened to hurricane level on Monday, is traveling parallel to Baja California, Mexico, at 15 mph. Its maximum sustained wind speeds hover around 85 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Kay’s center is expected to move over or near the west-central coast of the Baja California peninsula on Thursday evening, then near the northwest coast of the peninsula on Friday, the NHC said.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the area of Mexico north of Punta Abreojos to San Jose De Las Palomas; a hurricane watch extends from Puerto Cortes to Punta Abreojos. The storm killed three people over the weekend, Reuters reported.

Kay isn’t expected to directly hit the mainland U.S., but it is forecast bring wind, heavy rainfall and flash flooding to Southern California and Southwest Arizona on Friday. 

Tropical cyclones impacting Southern California are very uncommon. The most recent was Hurricane Nora in 1997, which moved over southeastern California as a tropical storm and caused power outages in Los Angeles and flooding in San Diego. 

Kay is expected to drop 2 to 4 inches of rain in Southern California and 1 to 2 inches in Southwest Arizona — and the deluge may last through Sunday. Southern California could also see “gusty, strong, east winds,” the National Weather Service’s San Diego office said.

Kay is also expected to create north-moving swells along the Baja California coast, which could affect the Gulf of California and Southern California “during the next couple of days,” the NHC said. 

Parts of California and Arizona have reported record-breaking temperatures this month, which have strained infrastructure and prompted officials to ask residents to conserve electricity.

On Thursday, 41 million people remained under heat alerts across the West in the 10th day of dangerous heat in the region. 

The hurricane’s rain will likely break a different record: average monthly rainfall.

In Los Angeles, the average rainfall for the month of September is 0.13 inches, and in San Diego it is 0.12 inches. Those cities could see 10 to 20 times that amount of rain in just one weekend.

In the Atlantic, meanwhile, Hurricane Earl is spinning near Bermuda, with tropical storm conditions expected to begin for the island on Thursday afternoon, the NHC said. Significant swells and rip currents are forecast to reach the U.S. East Coast later on Thursday. 

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