As volunteers worked feverishly to fill sandbags behind Palm Springs City Hall Saturday afternoon in preparation for a potentially life-threatening storm, City Manager Scott Stiles had one encouraging thought: “Hopefully we’re overprepared.”
Stiles and other city officials, as well as first responders, business owners, and thousands of residents weren’t taking any chances. As nightfall approached, and so did a powerful storm associated with Hurricane Hilary, sandbags were still being filled, cell phones and other devices were being charged, and the shelves at grocery stores were being emptied of necessary supplies.
“It’s great to see the community out here,” Stiles remarked as volunteers filled sandbags at two pits behind City Hall. “Everybody’s just been pulling together magnificently.”
The preparedness is needed for what could be as much rainfall to hit Palm Springs as the city normally receives in a year — four or more inches. The rain is expected to be accompanied by winds up to 50 mph and lead to not only flooding in the washes that surround the city, but possible power outages, downed trees, and airborne debris.
As of Saturday evening, Hurricane Hilary had weakened from a Category 4 to a Category 2 as it approached the west-central coast of the Baja California Peninsula. It’s expected to weaken further before making landfall on Sunday.
Still, the National Hurricane Center predicted the storm associated with the hurricane still has the potential to bring “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” over both Baja and the Southwestern U.S., becoming a tropical storm by the time it reaches the desert on Sunday.
Unlike the Valentine’s Day storm of 2019, which saw 3.7 inches of rain pelt the city in a single day, there has been plenty of warning for the storm expected to hit Sunday into Monday. That time has allowed the city and its residents to be in the best possible position.
Stiles said ample warning from agencies and experts monitoring the hurricane allowed the city to not only assist thousands of residents with sandbags, but move crucial equipment into place near the washes and prepare emergency personnel for the worst.
“This is what we’re supposed to be doing,” he said. “Hopefully we’re overprepared.”
Here are the latest updates as of late Saturday:
- Sandbags remain available in the city and are being handed out at all fire stations. However, city officials recommend heading to Fire Station 2 where volunteers are passing them out, even if firefighters are away. From that station, located at 300 El Cielo Rd., it’s a short trip south down the street to a pair of sand pits where volunteers are helping fill bags and load them into vehicles.
- Officials at Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) are advising that all passengers check with their respective airlines about cancelations and delays. Southwest Airlines, for example, said Saturday afternoon it would not be flying into or out of PSP through Monday morning.
- Multiple businesses announced via their social media accounts that they would be closed Sunday into Monday out of an abundance of caution. If you’re unsure about any being open, it’s best to call ahead.
- Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) officials will evaluate the storm situation Sunday and decide whether to hold classes on Monday, a spokesperson said Saturday afternoon.
Editor’s note: Make sure to read our ongoing coverage of how you should prepare, what the city is doing to prepare, and what to do when the storm arrives in our story that’s being updated live here.