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tracks A tropical cyclone impacting Southern California is indeed a rare event, but one that would have high impacts. Even a slow moving tropical depression could bring enough rain to the area to cause significant flooding. A tropical storm like the one that hit Long Beach in 1939 would cause an enormous amount of socioeconomic problems for the LA basin considering the population and infrastructure we have today. The most likely time for a tropical cyclone to affect Southern California would be during strong El Nino episodes and during the months of September and October. It is during these episodes that atmospheric and oceanic conditions could support a hurricane maintaining Category 1 strength (Saffir-Simpson). as far north as Los Angeles.
Historical Storm Tracks During the Last 50 Yrs.
 
Long Beach Tropical Storm of 1939
Storm History - On September 15th, a tropical depression formed off the coast of Panama. It quickly strengthened into a hurricane. It tracked northward, instead of the usual westward movement of a typical Eastern Pacific hurricane. The hurricane likely was strong, as it needed to maintain its winds to a northerly latitude. The hurricane's minimum measured pressure of 28.67 inHg occurred on September 22nd. An upper level trough turned it to the northeast, where it weakened due to the cool ocean waters.

Shortly before making landfall on September 25th, it weakened to a tropical storm. The storm still managed to hit Long Beach, California as a 50 mph tropical storm, making it the only tropical cyclone in recorded history to hit the state of California. The storm quickly weakened over land, and likely dissipated within a day or two.

Map of Long Beach Tropical Storm of 1939
 
The only known tropical storm to directly hit California
Impact - The storm dropped heavy rain on California, with 5.66 inches falling in Los Angeles and nearly a foot of rain occurring at Mount Wilson. The flooding caused moderate crop and structual damage, amounting to $2 million (1939 USD, $26.2 million 2005 USD). Shipping was caught off guard from this unusual system, and 45 died from the winds of the storm. People were caught unprepared by the storm. In response, the weather bureau established a forecast office for southern California, which began operations in February of 1940.
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