Tropical Storm Meets Earthquake In California

In an extraordinary turn of events, Southern California grappled with dual forces of nature on Sunday: the land-shaking tremors of an earthquake amid the winds and rains of Tropical Storm Hilary.

After days of forecasted approach, Hilary made landfall across multiple counties in Southern California. As aerial footage from ABC7 Los Angeles demonstrated, streets were submerged under water, turning the City of Angels into an unfamiliar wet landscape. As Tracey Chin, Program Manager for FEMA’s California Task Force Four, put it: “For them, the challenge is, of course, they’re in unknown country — meaning it’s not familiar to them.”

Adding to the challenges posed by Hilary was an unexpected, simultaneous threat: a 5.1 magnitude earthquake that struck near Ventura County. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) pinpointed the quake’s epicenter roughly four miles southeast of Ojai, California, approximately 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles. This tremor, which took place at 2:41 p.m. PT on Sunday, was succeeded by a series of aftershocks with magnitudes ranging from 2.6 to 4.0.

These two significant events occurring almost simultaneously took many residents by surprise. ABC7 Los Angeles was broadcasting the unfolding storm when the earthquake’s jolts disrupted their live coverage, adding an unforeseen layer of drama to the news.

As many residents navigated the challenges posed by the storm, the city of Calabasas reported via X, formerly known as Twitter, that the earthquake had been classified as a 5.1 magnitude, although no damage was immediately reported.

The USGS’s Shake Alert system had sent out a timely warning just before the quake hit, advising residents: “Earthquake detected! Drop, cover, hold on. Protect yourself.” This alert arrived as Tropical Storm Hilary was hovering less than 100 miles from San Diego.

The unexpected intersection of these two significant events was best summarized by Harold Schapelhouman, a retired Menlo Park Fire District fire chief: “It’s a combination of a whole bunch of weird things happening all at the same time. But we’re used to that in the state of California. We do a lot of juggling.”

Beyond the immediate regions affected, repercussions were felt in areas like the Bay Area. Oakland Airport reported numerous flight cancellations to Southern California on Sunday, with similar delays experienced across the Bay at SFO. Traveler Zelia Pantani captured the sentiments of many affected passengers: “Fingers crossed. We hope we can make it there tonight, but we’ll see.”

These events served as a sobering reminder of nature’s unpredictability, even in a state accustomed to its various challenges. It underscored the resilience and adaptability of Californians, who continue to navigate and overcome the whims of nature. As the state responds to these events, it’s clear that the community’s spirit remains undaunted, even when faced with the unusual confluence of storm and quake.