Hurricane Hilary Enters Southern California Swell Window

As of 8:00 a.m. PDT on Monday, September 26, 2011 (NHC Advisory #22): Hurricane Hilary has entered the Southern California swell window, and is currently a major hurricane (Category 3) with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. Hilary is moving west (265°) at 10 mph, but is expected to make an abrupt northwest turn by early Wednesday. Gradual weakening is expected over the next 48 hours, with rapid weakening expected at 72 hours as Hilary hits cooler waters and increasing shear.

The good news is that the intensity and tracking speed of Hilary are both favorable for Southern California swell production. The bad news is that Hilary remains a small, compact storm (hurricane force winds extend 35 miles from the center), is currently traveling west (pushing swell into the Pacific), and will be significantly weaker by the time it turns north.

Additionally, there is a moderate-period west-northwest (288°) swell descending from the North Pacific that the south-southeast (167°) swell will have to push through on its way north. The Point Loma Wavewatch forecast shows these swells overlapping on Wed/Thurs, with both in the 3 feet at 13 seconds range. As of the latest forecast, it appears Hilary will likely only produce a modest 2-3 foot at 12-13 second SSE swell for Southern California shores.

Wednesday will see a mixture of South Pacific SSW groundswell (2 feet at 15 seconds, 200°), moderate-period SSE from Hilary (2 feet at 13 seconds, 166°), and an increasing WNW swell (2 feet at 14 seconds, 292°).

The SSE swell from Hilary bumps up a notch late Thursday before peaking early Friday near 4 feet at 12 seconds (173°). The WNW component is forecast to peak on Thursday, then fade quickly through Friday.

Unless Hilary bucks the models and somehow turns north earlier or strengthens once she does (both unlikely), the forecast is for a fun-sized moderate-period SSE peaking early Friday before fading rapidly overnight into Saturday.

But, something much more interesting is brewing down near New Zealand, with potential for Southern Hemi action by October 7-8th. Stay tuned…