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Tropical Storm Hilary Leaves a Mark on Southern California: Whittier's Response and Community Unity

City employees hand out sandbags to local residents at the City Yard.

By Rebecca Canales, Founder and CEO of Whittier 360 News Network

August 21 2023 4:05 am

Whittier, California - In an unprecedented turn of events, Tropical Storm Hilary took a surprising route through Southern California, leaving behind a trail of damage and disruption. Despite bypassing the city of Whittier, the storm's impact was felt across the region, prompting a collective response from residents and authorities alike.

Originally a menacing Category 4 hurricane off the coast of Mexico, Tropical Storm Hilary underwent a downgrade before entering the United States. The impending threat led to the evacuation of Catalina Island, a first in modern history, and triggered a cascade of emergency alerts from FEMA, the National Weather Service, the State's Office of Emergency Services, local city and county governments, and law enforcement agencies. The US Navy pulled its ships out of harbor in Southern California for the first time in American history. Residents in Los Angeles County were advised not to travel unless absolutely necessary, and preparations were made, such as distributing sandbags and stocking up on supplies.

As the storm approached, the Whittier 360 News Network took on the critical role of disseminating timely information to the community. For several days leading up to the storm, the network worked closely with local agencies to relay alerts, warnings, and preparedness advice. The network provided advice to residents, including instructions on obtaining sandbags, charging electronic devices, and preparing emergency bags containing essential items. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, they urged residents to prioritize safety and preparedness over politics, emphasizing the importance of having essential supplies and a well-prepared emergency bag.

The storm's arrival was marked by a brief power outage in Uptown Whittier. While the city itself experienced relatively minor flooding, other areas across Southern California faced greater challenges. The overwhelming demand for sandbags at the City Yard prompted officials to reduce the limit per household, and similar measures were undertaken in neighboring unincorporated areas.

In an unforeseen convergence of natural events, Southern California experienced a 5.0 magnitude earthquake originating near Ojai as Tropical Storm Hilary was making its presence felt. This seismic event, while occurring concurrently with the storm, was not caused by it, as confirmed by experts at Cal Tech. Despite claims suggesting a link between the rain and the earthquake, scientific consensus rejects any causal relationship between the two phenomena. The earthquake briefly rattled the region, leaving no serious damage or reported injuries. This simultaneous occurrence served as a reminder of the complex and interconnected nature of Earth's natural processes, where separate events can coincide without one necessarily triggering the other.

Despite bypassing Whittier, the storm had some impact on the area, causing slight flooding and power outages. The storm's unexpected track change brought it closer to Whittier than initially anticipated, affecting various communities in its path. During the storm Whittier 360 News Network lost phone service. Despite this, community members shared their experiences online, highlighting issues such as fallen trees, power outages, and flooded streets. The storm's impact was particularly pronounced on highways, where numerous fatal collisions occurred due to reckless driving in hazardous conditions.

Despite the challenges, the community rallied together, with neighbors helping each other and coming together to respond to the crisis. The storm also highlighted the importance of preparedness and the need for collaboration during emergencies.

The divisions that have characterized national discourse in recent years were momentarily set aside as Whittier residents rallied to help one another. In an era marked by political polarization, the storm's threat reminded us of our shared vulnerability and the importance of community support.

However, amid this spirit of unity, incidents of crime also emerged. An armed kidnapping shocked the community as a young woman was abducted from Penn Park, prompting swift action from residents and law enforcement. Attempted looting at a local Target store further highlighted the complexity of human behavior during crises. The search for the young woman is still ongoing and the public's help is requested.

As Tropical Storm Hilary continued its path through Southern California, it left behind a mosaic of challenges and triumphs. Whittier, although spared from its worst, demonstrated resilience, preparedness, and neighborly support in the face of adversity. As we reflect on this once-in-a-century event, it serves as a reminder that even in the midst of chaos, our shared humanity prevails.

As the storm's impact lingers, residents are advised to remain cautious and heed the National Weather Service's flood alerts. An NWS flood alert remains in effect until 8 am and those who need to work this morning are advised to leave at least 30 minutes early because they will need to drive slow and cautiously in order to arrive at work safely and on time. The community's response to this natural disaster, marked by both selflessness and challenges, will undoubtedly be remembered as a testament to the strength of Whittier's spirit.

Images belows are published as community commons. Feel free to use, just remember to credit.

A city worker checks driver's licenses for proof of city residency.

Line of vehicles waiting for sandbags at Whittier City Yard on Hadley St. The line stretched from the Greenway Trail all the way to Whittier Blvd.

Some flooding in the right turn lane at the intersection of Whittier Blvd and Hadley St.

The bus stop across the street from the Whittier Dog Park.

A flooded section of the bike path portion of the Whittier Greenway Trail just north of Philadelphia St.

A flooded section of the footpath of the Whittier Greenway Trail north of Philadelphia St.

A vehicle drives through the flooded right turn lane at Whittier and Hadley.

The track at Whittier High School was flooded at about 830 am on August 20 2023 during Tropical Storm Hilary.

A scene from Pickering and Hadley.

A slightly flooded driveway in front of Rite Aid in Uptown Whittier.

Slightly flooded intersection at Greenleaf and Bailey in the Uptown Whittier Business District.

A truck drives through the flooded intersection of Greenleaf and Bailey.

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