August 20, 2023 Storm Hilary batters California after making landfall in Mexico

By Maureen Chowdhury, Aditi Sangal, Mary Gilbert, Eric Zerkel, Steve Almasy, Matt Meyer and Helen Regan, CNN

Updated 7:31 AM ET, Mon August 21, 2023
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9:04 p.m. ET, August 20, 2023

Los Angeles area and San Diego schools will be closed Monday as Hilary drenches California

From CNN’s Cheri Mossburg and Jamiel Lynch

Vehicles splash up water during heavy rains from Tropical Storm Hilary in Los Angeles on Sunday, August 20.
Vehicles splash up water during heavy rains from Tropical Storm Hilary in Los Angeles on Sunday, August 20. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The nation’s second largest school district will be closed Monday because of Tropical Storm Hilary, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced Sunday.

“Tomorrow there will be no schools active across Los Angeles Unified,” Carvalho said in a city news conference.

“Everything will be shut down,” including after school programs and activities, he added. 

Carvalho, who came to the Los Angeles district from Miami-Dade Public Schools, has experience leading a large district through hurricanes and tropical storms.

The decision was based on the inability to fully survey schools and ensure the safe conditions of roads and other conditions, Carvalho said.

“We stand by our decision,” he said. “There is no way we can compromise the safety of a single child or an employee and our inability to survey buildings or our inability to determine access to schools, makes it nearly impossible for us to open schools.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District cover an area of about 700 square miles, meaning the geographical differences of affected neighborhood schools will vary greatly.

In nearby Pasadena, schools will also be closed on Monday, the Pasadena Unified School District said Sunday.

“With the safety and well-being of our students, employees, and their families as our highest priority, we have decided to close PUSD schools tomorrow, Monday, August 21, 2023,” the district said in a news release citing the flash flood, wind and storm warnings currently in place.

“We want everyone to stay safe and avoid any unnecessary travel or exposure to dangerous road conditions,” the district stated.

And schools in the San Diego Unified School District will also be closed on Monday, delaying the start of the school year, according to a news release.

“The San Diego Unified School District announced today that it will postpone the start of its school year by one day, with schools being closed to students on Monday, Aug. 21. Postponing the first day will allow the district to assess any impact to sites and offices and ensure they are prepared to welcome students and families to the new school year,” the release said.

San Diego Unified serves more than 121,000 students in preschool through 12th grade. 

7:49 p.m. ET, August 20, 2023

Firefighters rescue 1 person from Los Angeles River

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

One person was plucked from the Los Angeles River shortly after firefighters responded to a call about two cars in the flood control channel, according to Los Angeles Fire Chief Kristin Crowley.

It wasn't clear whether the rescued person had any connection to the vehicles, Crowley said at a news conference. No victims were found in the cars or the immediate area. 

Crowley said there have been no reports of injuries or any significant damage so far as the result of Tropical Storm Hilary.

LA firefighters also responded to a Koreatown apartment with a partial roof collapse and two debris flow incidents in Sherman Oaks.

6:57 p.m. ET, August 20, 2023

More than 1,000 flights canceled as Hilary barrels toward the US West Coast

Flight cancellations and delays are beginning to pile up Sunday as Tropical Storm Hilary barrels into the Western United States.

At least 1,030 flights into, out of or within the United States have been canceled on Sunday, according to tracking website FlightAware.

And at least 4,016 US flights have been delayed Sunday, the website noted.

6:35 p.m. ET, August 20, 2023

Los Angeles is opening more shelters

From CNN’s Cheri Mossburg

Los Angeles officials will open three more emergency shelters and provide transportation in an effort to help get the city’s homeless population to safety before the brunt of Tropical Storm Hilary hits.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass told CNN Sunday afternoon, “We have tens of thousands of people who are homeless, so we’re working with our county partners, our county housing services – homeless services agency — to get people into shelters. And we have a lot of shelter beds available. So we’re trying to make sure, especially those individuals that are on the riverbeds, do not get compromised and drown.”

Urging unhoused people to accept temporary shelter, city officials said those who go to emergency shelters can bring pets and personal belongings.

The new accommodations are in addition to the five emergency shelters opened Saturday near high-risk areas close to waterways and potential flood zones.

10:50 p.m. ET, August 20, 2023

Magnitude 5.1 earthquake shakes Southern California 

From CNN’s Cheri Mossburg

As Southern California braced for a highly unusual summer storm Sunday afternoon, residents were struck by a much more familiar phenomenon: a magnitude 5.1 earthquake, according to the US Geological Survey.

The epicenter of the quake was in Ojai, between Santa Barbara and Ventura, and it occurred along the Sisar fault, USGS data showed.

There were no immediate reports of damage, the Ventura County Sheriff said in a social media post. County aviation units later reported no damage after flying over the Lake Casitas and Matilija dams and the city of Ojai.

Shaking was felt throughout Los Angeles and surrounding communities, according to a USGS tool that allows residents to self-report their experience.

There were no initial reports of injuries or structural damage in Los Angeles, according to the city's fire department. First responders from all 106 stations are in "earthquake mode," surveying their areas and looking for damage to power lines, transportation infrastructure, apartment buildings and large gathering sites.

About 50 miles away in Valencia, the quake felt like a slow roll, lasting about 20 seconds. Residents reported a slow-rolling effect in the Hollywood area, as well.

At least two aftershocks — measuring 3.1 and 3.6 — followed the initial quake.

Earthquake expert Dr. Lucy Jones said it appears to have been preceded by a small foreshock sequence that began Saturday morning.

USGS seismic reports are preliminary and are sometimes adjusted.

5:52 p.m. ET, August 20, 2023

Nevada governor declares state of emergency due to oncoming storm

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo gives a speech at a news conference in Las Vegas on November 14, 2022.
Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo gives a speech at a news conference in Las Vegas on November 14, 2022. Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service/Getty Images/FILE

Gov. Joe Lombardo issued a state of emergency for Nevada due to Tropical Storm Hilary, according to a news release.

The declaration follows Lombardo’s decision to activate 100 National Guard members to southern Nevada earlier this week in preparation for the storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also deployed staff to the state to support its response.

"Hilary represents a serious threat to our communities, and once again, I implore all Nevadans to prepare for flooding, remain vigilant, and to follow all guidance from state and local emergency officials," Lombardo said in a statement.  

CNN’s Colin Jeffery contributed to this report. 

5:36 p.m. ET, August 20, 2023

Southwest and Frontier suspend flights at Ontario International Airport outside LA

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines have suspended flights to and from Ontario International Airport, it announced online.

Southwest is suspending all flights from 12 p.m. PT Sunday through 10:30 a.m. PT Monday. Frontier has suspended all flights Sunday and Monday, the airport added. 

Officials told passengers to reach out to their airlines for updated status on their flights. 

Ontario International Airport is located in San Bernardino County, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles.

6:33 p.m. ET, August 20, 2023

San Diego expects the worst of Tropical Storm Hilary to hit in the next several hours

From CNN’s Cheri Mossburg

A sign warns motorists of severe storm conditions along Highway 52 in San Diego as Tropical Storm Hilary approaches Sunday, August 20. 
A sign warns motorists of severe storm conditions along Highway 52 in San Diego as Tropical Storm Hilary approaches Sunday, August 20.  Sandy Huffaker/Reuters

San Diego officials are bracing for the full effects of Tropical Storm Hilary to hit in the next several hours and have strategically placed resources throughout the area to quickly respond to rescues, power outages and downed trees, officials said in a Sunday news conference.

The storm is about 90 miles from the US border and about 115 miles southeast of downtown San Diego, the National Hurricane Center said at 2 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET).

Some areas of San Diego County have already seen 3 to 4 inches of rain and are expected to see three times that much as the storm moves through, NOAA meteorologist Alex Tardy told media. The county’s desert and mountains can expect five to 10 inches of rain.

The storm “already gathered its strength, its moisture, and its rain and wind, and that’s coming our way,” Tardy said, noting that some rock slide and debris flows are already occurring.

Rural areas are expected to get hit the hardest by the storm, and first responders are coordinating across different agencies, San Diego County Sheriff Kelly Martinez said.

“We’re not built for this kind of rainfall,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Sunday, as the storm intensified. “With what we’re expecting, it may overwhelm us.”

Gloria urged San Diego’s population of 1.3 million residents to stay at home, and said he hopes major issues that develop this evening will be handled by morning.

5:26 p.m. ET, August 20, 2023

Over 300 flights have been canceled at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas

From CNN’s Keith Allen

With Tropical Storm Hilary barreling toward the United States, over 300 flights have been canceled at Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport on Sunday.

According to the tracking website FlightAware, 21% of the flights scheduled to depart from Harry Reid today have been canceled — that's a total of 165 flights.

Additionally, 23% of the flights — a total of 170 flights — that were scheduled to arrive at the airport on Sunday have also been canceled, the website notes.