‘Rare’ marginal risk for severe weather in the Fresno area from Hurricane Hilary, NWS says

Clouds driven by Hurricane Hilary are already in the Fresno area, with forecasters issuing a marginal but also “rare” warning of the risk of severe weather by early Saturday night.

The potential for severe weather in Fresno could start at 5 p.m. and last until 9 p.m., meteorologist Andy Bollenbacher said.

Downdraft winds and heavy rain are possible, he said.

“The potential for thunderstorms for today has really increased because we have hot temperatures that are occurring right now, along with the fast-storm motions,” Bollenbacher said.

He said the forecast was adjusted by six to 10 hours earlier than thought a couple of days ago as Hilary makes a rapid approach toward California and other areas of the southwestern United States.

“Upper air currents are catching on a little bit better,” he said. “Sometimes the storm motion can be a little bit tricky to project as the storm is several hundred miles away from landfall. As we get closer, some of the upper-air features are helping to steer the storm and helping to accelerate it somewhat.

“We’re seeing the risk of flooding happening a wee bit earlier than we previously thought.”

Fresno is still expected to receive one-half to an inch of rain when the main effects of the storm hit Sunday through Monday, he said.

Bollenbacher said the weather event is rare.

“Never seen a tropical cyclone get into this part of the area with the amount of momentum and moisture because a lot of these systems will be out and go more easterly toward like Arizona or far eastern,” he said.

“To see a system actually bring a tropical system and bring this kind of moisture is rare.”

Just before sunrise Saturday, Hurricane Hilary was a category 3 storm near Baja California. Forecasters say it will weaken to a tropical storm before it reaches Southern California, but the leading edges can affect areas hundreds of miles away.

Clouds from Hurricane Hilary over at Roeding Park in Fresno, California on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.
Clouds from Hurricane Hilary over at Roeding Park in Fresno, California on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.