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California Baptist Disaster Relief response underway after rare hurricane

The California National Guard's 330th Military Police Company assists local fire departments with rescue operations Aug. 20 in southern California in the wake of Hurricane Hilary. Photo from Facebook

SAN DIEGO (BP) – While Hurricane Hilary brought heavy rains, flash flooding and concerns over mudslides, a large-scale Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response does not appear to be likely, said Send Relief’s Crisis Response director.

“We have been in communication with California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders and they continue to assess impact and needs, but initial reports indicate the response will be mainly localized with CSB DR teams,” Coy Webb told Baptist Press today.

“Thankfully, the storm moved through quickly.”

Thus far, state Disaster Relief teams have only been contacted by the Red Cross for chaplaincy services.

“The storm wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been,” said Mike Bivins, California’s recent state director who is working as a coordinator with Send Relief. “The winds and rain have slowed down over the affected area. A couple of areas in the mountains got around 10 inches of rain.”

Even as Californians were withstanding Hilary, a 5.1 earthquake hit the Los Angeles area that didn’t cause major damage.

“It shook some store shelves, but also rattled some people,” Bivins said.

The hurricane made landfall the same weekend that Send Relief President Bryant Wright visited those affected by wildfires in Maui. 

Hilary was the first tropical storm to hit the Los Angeles area in 84 years. It landed in Baja, Calif., on Aug. 20 and brought flooding that resulted in one death when a vehicle was swept away by an overflowing stream near the Mexican town of Santa Rosalia.

Torrential rains as it made its way inland past San Diego and Palm Springs produced flooding and prompted a declared state of emergency from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The National Weather Service (NWS) downgraded Hilary to a post-tropical storm early Monday morning, but nevertheless issued warnings for “continued life-threatening and locally catastrophic flooding expected over portions of the Southwestern U.S. today.”

Higher rainfall amounts came in the mountains and deserts, the NWS office in San Diego reported. As of Monday morning, Hilary had pushed out of California and brought widespread rain into Nevada, with additional thunderstorms expected to develop in the afternoon.