Impact of Tropical Storm Hilary triggers closure of Lake Mead recreations areas

Aug 20, 2023, 1:23 PM | Updated: Aug 21, 2023, 1:48 pm

PHOENIX — The National Weather Service downgraded Hurricane Hilary to a tropical storm on Sunday morning, but parts of Arizona were feeling its impact.

Weather officials said a flood watch is still in effect for southwestern Arizona. That means locals in those areas should watch out for heavy rainfall and flash flooding.

All public use areas at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the Arizona-Nevada border were closed Saturday due to the impact of the severe weather. Officials expected the park to reopen with normal operations Tuesday.

On Sunday, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation orders for Lake Mead’s Temple Bar and Willow Beach areas.

“We are responsible for evacuation orders for the entire county,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook comment. “Mohave County is 13,000+ square miles. So keep in mind, the weather in your area may not be the same weather that other areas are experiencing.”

Tropical Storm Hilary is impacting more than just those faraway regions, though. Many Arizonans hoping to travel to areas in Hilary’s path, like San Diego or Los Angeles, are dealing with cancelled flights.

Sky Harbor International Airport has cancelled and delayed at least 203 flights scheduled between Friday and Monday, according to data collected at 1 p.m.

Will Tropical Storm Hilary affect the Valley?

Sustained winds of at least 39 miles per hour hit land in Baja California at around 11 a.m., according to NWS officials.

Already Tropical Storm Hilary’s winds are impacting the southwest. Weather officials forecast scattered rain showers, thunderstorms and a small chance of tornados in certain parts of the Copper State.

There is a 90% chance of wind gusts of over 60 miles per hour in southwest Arizona, NWS Phoenix said on Twitter. Those who live in the state’s southwest region should also be aware of the predicted 5% chance of isolated tornadoes.

A flood watch is in effect for southwestern Arizona through Monday for heavy rainfall. Officials with the NWS predict anywhere from 0.5 to 2 inches of rainfall in the area.

The storm is likely to affect eastern areas of Arizona, though not as severely as the areas near Lake Mead.

The latest seven-day forecast includes a 70% chance of showers Sunday afternoon and night. Showers are 60% likely to rain on Monday night, although the chance drops to 30% of showers on Tuesday, 20% on Wednesday and 30% on Thursday.

The storm continued to make steady progress toward the southwestern U.S. on Sunday morning. Officials with the NWS Weather Prediction Center said areas of heavy rainfall could cause flash flooding through 5 p.m.

How are Arizona’s leaders protecting the state from potential damage?

The Phoenix Fire Department sent a team of 16 water rescue specialists to Yuma on Sunday afternoon.

The teams will help Yuma officials prepare for intense flooding and potential emergencies Tropical Storm Hilary might cause.

“We know that there’s a storm coming so we’re just trying to pre-plan and get our resources there to assist other fire departments with an overwhelming response,” Phoenix Fire spokesperson Kimberly Quick-Ragsdale said in a statement.

The team brought three motorized inflatable boats along with two John boats to help Yuma Fire teams rescue people trapped by the floods.

“Once they arrive in Yuma, they’ll meet with other agencies, their local police, fire, EMS, and they will determine what is needed at that time,” Quick-Ragsdale said. “If they need to deploy more resources, we will surely do that.”

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Impact of Tropical Storm Hilary triggers closure of Lake Mead recreations areas