Hurricane Hilary, now off the coast of Mexico, is traveling north and California is on its direct path. 

Meteorologists expect Hilary to weaken into a tropical storm by the time it hits Southern California on Sunday and to weaken further, resembling a minor winter storm, by the time it reaches Berkeley and the Bay Area.

Berkeley is forecast to receive about a fifth of an inch of rain between Sunday and Tuesday, as well as potential thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service. Daytime temperatures are expected to hover in the 70s, with overnight lows in the upper 50s. Wind speeds are expected to remain in the 6 mph to 10 mph range. 

But these forecasts could drastically change as the hurricane evolves, said Sarah McCorkle, a meteorologist at the NWS’ Bay Area office. 

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty as to how much rain the Bay Area’s going to get,” McCorkle said. “We’ll probably get remnants of a tropical storm … but that could either be in the form of cloudy skies or some rain.”

Widespread floods are not expected in Berkeley, but you’re advised to exercise caution because storms at this time of the year are quite rare.

No red flag warnings are currently in place, but lightning strikes during thunderstorms are known to cause wildfires. Keep a close eye on weather reports if you’re planning to go out of town — the weather service has identified Monterey and San Benito counties as areas of concern for potential flooding Sunday through Tuesday.

The last time a tropical storm impacted California was in 1997 with Tropical Storm Nora. Nora was responsible for two deaths in Mexico. There were no fatalities directly linked to the storm in the U.S., but the California Highway Patrol attributed three or four traffic fatalities in Southern California to weather impacts. Nora also caused an estimated $30 to $40 million loss of lemon trees. 

Berkeley storm safety tips 

We compiled advice from experts on how to stay safe before, during and after storms.

Sources: City of Berkeley, Alameda County, National Weather Service,, PG&E, CalTrans, Berkeley Wildfire Guide

How do I prepare for a severe storm?

  • Protect your home from flooding by clearing storm drains, cleaning gutters and downspouts before the storm arrives. Volunteers with Berkeley’s adopt-a-drain program have access to the city’s reflective vests and garbage bags; there are currently around 30 storm drain volunteers, with new applications still being screened, albeit slowly due to staff vacancies. Learn more about the adopt-a-drain program.
  • Sandbags can redivert the flow of water and minimize damage. Berkeley residents can take up to five free sandbags from the city’s Corporation Yard at 1326 Allston Way on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Prepare an emergency supply “go bag” with nonperishable food, any necessary medication, and sufficient water — one gallon of water per person each day. Learn how to assemble a go bag.

How do I prepare for potential power outages?

  • Prepare portable phone battery packs and flashlights. Outdoor power generators can be a good option, especially for those with electricity-powered medical devices, but follow manufacturer instructions carefully to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If a power outage occurs, call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 to report the outage and unplug most electrical appliances, leaving one lamp on to notify you when power is restored. Look up estimated restoration times on PG&E’s outage map.
  • Keep your fridge and freezer doors closed. If you experience power outage-related food spoilage, file a PG&E claim.
  • Read more tips for preparing for power outages

Where do I sign up to be alerted of a storm?

  • Sign up for Alameda County’s emergency alert system, AC Alert. The city’s website contains more information on how to get emergency notifications.
  • Check the National Weather Service’s Bay Area website and Twitter account for up-to-the-minute weather information.

Where can I go to stay safe during a storm?

  • Berkeley operates an emergency storm shelter at the old City Hall, but it’s frequently at its maximum capacity of 19 residents. Call Dorothy Day House at 510-495-0131 to see if space is available. 
  • When temperatures drop below 45 degrees or when there is a more than a 50% chance of precipitation, you can head to the North Berkeley Senior Center emergency warming center, which opens doors at 6:30 p.m. and closes the next morning. The warming center can accommodate up to 88 people and provides clean clothes and socks (when available), PPE, snacks and weekend meals.
  • The American Red Cross offers temporary financial assistance and operates some shelters in areas where major natural disasters occur. Find an open shelter.
  • Public libraries in Berkeley are open during business hours, Monday to Saturday, and offer bathrooms, water and temporary respite indoors. A full list of libraries and hours is available online

How do I report storm damage?

  • Residents and businesses can call 311 to report storm-related issues “such as a clogged drain, culvert, inlet, or creek; a fallen tree or major limb; a malfunctioning traffic signal; or flooding that enters a travel lane.” 
  • After hours, call 510-981-6620, to report clogged storm drains, flooding, lights or traffic signals and 510-981-6660 to report downed trees.

What if I’m driving during a storm?

  • If you must drive, check current highway conditions before heading out.
  • If a traffic light is out, treat the intersection as a four-way stop. 
  • Call 911 if you encounter downed power lines.
  • Severe storms often cause flooding in intersections and roadways in West Berkeley. If you encounter a flooded road while driving, the city wants you to “turn around, don’t drown,” as water can be deeper than it appears.

Featured image: Amir Aziz

Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...