Hurricane Hilary barrels towards Baja California peninsula, southwest US

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Hurricane Hilary hurtled towards Mexico’s Baja California peninsula on Sunday, blanketing the region with heavy rain amid warnings of catastrophic and life-threatening flooding on the peninsula and in the U.S. Southwest.

One man died in the Baja California Sur state when a family of five was swept away into the sea while crossing a stream, according to a Mexican official, who also shared images of flooding and roads that were swept away in the area.

In the United States, the hurricane disrupted flights and sports games before it arrived.

Early on Sunday, the hurricane was carrying top sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. Its center was forecast to move close to the west-central coast of the Baja California peninsula in the next few hours and then across southern California on Sunday afternoon.

Hilary was expected to weaken but would likely remain a hurricane as it passed near Baja California, becoming a tropical storm before reaching southern California, the NHC said.

Storm surges – when the ocean is pushed inland – could produce coastal flooding in parts of Baja California and the hurricane was carrying heavy rain that could cause catastrophic flooding in some areas, the NHC said.

Rainfall of 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15 cm), with isolated amounts of 10 inches, was expected across the northern Baja California peninsula as well as portions of southern California and southern Nevada, the Miami-based agency said in its latest advisory.

As of 0900 GMT, Hilary was about 385 (625 km) miles south-southeast of San Diego, the NHC said. It was moving north-northwest at 21 mph (33 kph).

U.S. President Joe Biden received a briefing on Saturday from senior staff on preparations for the hurricane, the White House said.

In the Baja California peninsula, some school and other non-essential activities were canceled through Monday, and authorities in Mexico’s second-largest city, Tijuana, urged people in high-risk zones to move to temporary shelters.

Images shared on social media showed flash floods in the coastal town of Santa Rosalia, on the eastern side of the Baja California peninsula, with water gushing down what used to be a road, sweeping away a tree.

Some 30 miles (48 km) south, in the town of Mulege, where the one person died when crossing a stream, Municipal President Edith Aguilar Villavicencio said on her Facebook account that Mexico’s navy and local firefighters were rescuing people.

U.S. authorities in affected areas warned residents and businesses to take precautions.

Nearly 200 flights scheduled for Sunday at the San Diego International Airport have been canceled and another 184 on Monday, according to the FlightAware website.

In California, Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles-based Dodgers and Angels brought their Sunday games forward to Saturday to turn them into split doubleheaders.

The city’s soccer teams, Los Angeles FC and LA Galaxy, both postponed their Sunday matches due to threat of heavy rains and flooding.

(This story has been corrected to change day of the week from Saturday to Sunday in paragraph 1)

(Reporting by Drazen Jorgic, Steve Holland and Michael Martina; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Deepa Babington, Kim Coghill and Frances Kerry)