Hurricane in the Desert

Two words you’ve never said together before…hurricane and desert. But over a couple of days in late August 2023, Hurricane Hilary came roaring into the Southwest creating flash floods, illuminating the sky with lightning storms, and dumping 2 inches of rainfall on the Anza Borrego Desert.

You say, “Two inches? Why, that’s nothing!” Well, when the desert floor is as hard as ceramic tile, it IS something. The rock-hard soil of the desert cannot absorb that much water so quickly, so the run-off becomes floods, mudslides, and standing water.

A hurricane in the desert hasn’t happened for 84 years, thank goodness. But back in 1939, a hundred people died because of an unusual weather event – thankfully, no deaths have been reported in the United States as a result of Hurricane Hilary.

hurricane in the desert

Pupfish and Plants

It’s difficult to tell what effect the flooding and mudslides will have on the unique desert creatures that have captured our hearts. What will happen to the tiny pupfish that live in the pond at the Visitor Center at Anza Borrego State Park? Minor flooding throughout the year normally brings nutrients into their ecosystem. But the mudslides and flashfloods of the hurricane in the desert may have brought too much silt and smothered recently-laid pupfish eggs. Adult pupfish would have swum out of the way. Just hang in there, baby pupfish!

If you are expecting a Superbloom within the next couple of weeks, hold your breath a little longer. In some deserts, flooding leads to flowers within a short time, but in Anza Borrego where the daytime temperature can be over 100F this time of year, some vegetation may get greener, but flowers probably will not appear in the near future. Besides that, the flooding could have washed the dormant seeds away. Perhaps we’ll see a glorious rare Superbloom in the Spring of 2024, thanks to the rare hurricane in the desert of 2023. Or perhaps not.

Wind, Water, and the Desert Landscape

The ever-present winds erode the mountains and crags every day, but it is earthquakes and water from the occasional torrential storm that make visible changes quickly. And, by the way, there was an earthquake just north of Los Angeles during the hurricane in the desert.

Now is the time to come see the Anza Borrego Desert from the comfort of your own motorhome. There’s just a little time left to take advantage of the low Summer rates. The roads have been cleared, the rain has stopped, and the lizards are once again snoozing on the rocks. Reserve your stay at The Springs at Borrego RV Resort & Golf Course and take plenty of pictures of the aftermath of an event you may never see again.

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