Southern California Grapples with Storm Deluge and Unexpected Earthquake on Same Day

Southern California Grapples with Storm Deluge and Unexpected Earthquake on Same Day

People stand on a pier over the Pacific Ocean with Tropical Storm Hilary approaching San Diego County in Imperial Beach, Calif., on Aug. 20, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Sophie Li

Sophie Li


Updated: 8/21/2023

On the same day that Tropical Storm Hilary brought heavy rainfall and widespread flooding in southern California, Aug. 20, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake near Ojai—north of Los Angeles—shook the region.
As of Aug. 21, there were no reports of fatalities, significant injuries, or extensive destruction due to these events in the state.
However, authorities have cautioned that potential hazards persist, particularly in desert and mountainous areas, because of swollen water bodies and potential mudslides.
The tropical storm made landfall on the morning of Aug. 20—having weakened from a category 1 hurricane—with wind speeds of more than 60 miles per hour moving northward, covering southern Orange County and extending further south to San Diego, according to the National Weather Service.
As the storm pushed inland, roads in the San Bernardino Mountains were blocked by mudslides and debris, while major roads in and out of Palm Springs were cut off by flooding, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) reported.
“Right now, we have flooding on all of our roads. There’s no way in or out of Palm Springs, and that’s the case for the majority of the Coachella Valley. We’re all stuck,” Palm Springs Mayor Grace Garner said in an interview with CNN on Aug. 21.
In a video posted on X, formally Twitter, a large debris flow was seen running under bridges of Interstate 10.
“We lack basic infrastructure in so many of these areas of inland California, and we have so much more work to do to ensure climate resiliency for extreme weather events, especially for communities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties,” Palm Springs Councilwoman Christy Holstege posted on X.
During the past two days, the most substantial rainfall was documented at Mount Wilson, with the weather service reporting 8.56 inches. Crystal Lake received nearly seven inches of rainfall, and 6.5 inches was recorded at Santa Anita Dam.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency on Aug. 18 in anticipation of the storm. The state also sent out 7,500 employees to aid local communities—including nearly 4,000 highway patrol officers and 2,000 Caltrans workers, Mr. Newsom said.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department issued a compulsory evacuation order on the evening of Aug. 19 for several areas, encompassing Oak Glen, Forest Falls, Mountain Home Village, Angelus Oaks, and northeastern Yucaipa.
Vehicles splash water during heavy rains from Tropical Storm Hilary, in south Los Angeles, Calif., on Aug. 20, 2023. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Vehicles splash water during heavy rains from Tropical Storm Hilary, in south Los Angeles, Calif., on Aug. 20, 2023. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)


While inland regions were dealing with rainfall and flooding, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck near Ojai on Aug. 20 at about 2:41 p.m. and was felt across southern California.
“We are in the middle of the first tropical storm since 1939, and we just had an earthquake,” Scott Thomsen, director of communications with the Ventura County Fire Department, told the Los Angeles Times. “So far, we have no reports of damage, but we are checking.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, light shaking from Salinas to Oceanside, and more than 30 aftershocks were logged.
In a live broadcast, seismologist Lucy Jones noted that the Aug. 20 earthquake was the first magnitude 5.0 tremor recorded in the region since 1941, the Ventura County Star reported.

Other Storm Impacts

Hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled at Los Angeles International Airport, and over 6,000 flights were disrupted.
Railway officials halted Amtrak’s well-favored coastal route connecting Los Angeles and San Diego from the night of Aug. 19 through the morning of Aug. 21.
Three Major League Baseball games originally scheduled for Aug. 20 took place on Aug. 19 instead to avoid the storm, and several Major League Soccer games were postponed.
All schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District—the largest district in the state and second largest in the nation—were closed on Aug. 21, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced on the afternoon of Aug. 20.
Amid weeks of striking, the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America canceled their scheduled picketing for Aug. 21.
Sophie Li

Sophie Li


Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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