While Hurricane Hilary remains too far out to anticipate its full impact here in Southern California, officials at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are watching—and preparing for the worst.

In Long Beach, Chief Executive Officer Mario Cordero said that, despite rarely receiving “rainfall of this magnitude,” the port has “a comprehensive, all-hazard business continuity plan,” adding that the facility was built to minimize damage during natural disasters.

“We’re expecting heavy rainfall Sunday, and our security center is tracking the storm 24/7 and coordinating with the Long Beach Emergency Operations Center, U.S. Coast Guard and Marine Exchange of Southern California, to ensure prompt communications and response for any local impacts,” Cordero said in an emailed statement.

Port of LA officials are in contact with its terminal operators and the dockworker’s union as well as local marinas, small boat operators, cruise lines and other waterfront workers to ensure they are informed and prepared for storm conditions, according to a statement.

“As necessary and with the assistance of Los Angeles Port Pilots and the Marine Exchange of Southern California, vessels will be relocated to anchorage points off shore to ride the storm out,” the LA port’s statement reads. “Los Angeles Port Police are prepared to work closely with our tenants, the U.S. Coast Guard L.A./Long Beach sector and our other local law enforcement, maritime fire, and emergency management agency partners maintaining a readiness posture to respond to this potential climate emergency.”

Port officials urged residents to avoid the shoreline and beaches for the duration of the storm.

The Coast Guard, for its part, is encouraging all waterway users to closely monitor local weather broadcasts. The agency also issued a list of requirements and recommendations from acting Captain of the Port for LA and Long Beach Stacey Crecy for large vessels when wind speeds exceed 35 knots, including, among others, ensuring:

  • A second anchor (if installed) made ready to let go;
  • Their propulsion plant placed in immediate standby;
  • The vessel is not dragging anchor;
  • The ship remains more than 3 nautical miles from other vessels at all times;
  • A licensed deck officer is on watch and maintaining continuous radio listening watch.

Hilary, which grew to Category 4 strength off Mexico’s Pacific coast Friday, could be the first tropical storm to make landfall in Southern California in 84 years. Long Beach and other government officials are warning of the potential for significant impacts, including extensive flooding.

For the first time ever, the U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm watch for the region.

Long Beach city officials also are preparing for potential swells on Sunday and Monday, especially on the peninsula and other oceanfront areas.

“Residents anywhere in the city living in historically vulnerable areas that are prone to flooding should take this opportunity to prepare now,” a Friday press release reads. “Low-lying areas and places susceptible to water intrusion should be sealed or protected by sandbags.”

Hilary could be 1st tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.