People turned Hilary into a meme with videos from the Universal Studios tour — and LA Metro had the best response

The Universal Studios Tour features a simulated earthquake and flood
The Universal Studios Tour features a simulated earthquake and flood inside a set designed to look like a subway train station.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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No, Koreatown’s LA Metro train station did not flood during Tropical Storm Hilary on Sunday.

However, a viral video of a flooding train station — taken on a Universal Studios tram tour — would have you think otherwise. On Sunday, X user @DealinRugs posted a video of the Universal Studios Tour tram ride, showing water gushing through the famous Hollywood set with the false caption “The LA Metro Station on Wilshire/Vermont is flooding from the storm” and a surprised face emoji. The post was referring to the underground Purple and Red line station in the L.A. neighborhood of Koreatown.

The photos circulating on social media looked dramatic, as if Dodger Stadium might be swallowed up by Hilary’s floodwaters. Sometimes looks can be deceiving.

Aug. 21, 2023

Many X users caught on to the tweet joke on Sunday, taking the bit even further, sharing macabre gags about sharks being loose in L.A. with video of the “Jaws” set, while another posted video from the faux-flash flood part of the tour with the caption, “This is happening right now in Studio City. Unbelievable.” A separate user shared video from the ride’s “War of the Worlds” set with the false claim that it was wreckage from a plane that was downed by Hilary in Long Beach.


But that didn’t stop some from processing the memes as real footage. Several reporters were duped by the fake train station tweet, including Dave Bondy, a Michigan-based journalist, who along with others had asked for permission to use the footage as a part of his coverage.

Bondy later addressed his request, tweeting early Monday morning “Yup, they got me,” and assured followers that he had “deleted it immediately when I learned. I had never been to the park.” Bondy did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comment.

Michael Sadri, the X user behind the viral tweet, told The Times he grew up going to Universal Studios and would take the Red Line up to the theme park with the Wilshire/Vermont station as his main stop. When he posted the video on Sunday afternoon, he said he meant the tweet as a small joke and didn’t think it would blow up, or that journalists would start taking it seriously.

The first tropical storm to hit Los Angeles in 84 years dumped record rainfall and turned streets into muddy, debris-swollen rivers.

Aug. 21, 2023

The tram ride at Universal Studios theme park takes attendees on a tour through various sets that commemorate some of the studio’s iconic films. A portion of the ride includes a homage to the 1974 film “Earthquake,” and shows a mock subway station experiencing a simulated earthquake and ensuing flood.

“Twitter is just all about jokes,” said Sadri, 27, of West Adams. “Sometimes jokes is another way of coping, you know?” Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sadri had never experienced a tropical storm and was frightened, along with many, amid news of its severity.

“Everyone was saying this is gonna be the biggest storm ever, everyone’s freaking out,” Sadri continued. “But then after, it was just heavy rainfall.”


Storm experts say we should reflect on what was unique about the tropical storm for Californians and why it’s important to stay humble, even if your patio chairs didn’t get blown over this time.

Aug. 21, 2023

LA Metro had the best response to the original misleading tweet, though, writing several hours later, “This is a ride at Universal Studios. Duh.”

In fact, none of LA Metro’s rail and bus system — which includes more than 100 miles of rail lines — had any significant interruptions or delays related to the historic storm or the magnitude 5.1 earthquake that struck near Ojai and shook L.A., a metro official confirmed. Patrick Chandler, a spokesperson for LA Metro said there were no significant weather-related interruptions to bus or rail service and called Sunday “a pretty normal day.”

The hoax was a part of a trend of people online, mostly Los Angeles-area residents, poking fun at the stark contrast between the dire media coverage of the storm as it barreled north along Baja California, versus the storm that came, which seemed to be less extreme than previously warned.

The most important theme park ride ever created? It may just be the Universal Studios tram tour, which dates to the silent film era. Once primarily a behind-the-scenes tour, the trek has evolved to define the modern theme park.

Aug. 3, 2023

Even so, with the eye of the storm hanging over Compton and Dodger Stadium on Sunday evening, damage was still seen in the city. Crews from L.A. city agencies responded to downed power lines, toppled trees, damaged streets and clogged storm drains. About 18,000 customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power were without power Monday, including residents of Hollywood, Pico-Union and Beverly Grove, according to Marty Adams, the top executive of the city’s utility.

Elsewhere in Southern California, debris flows and flash floods washed out roads in parts of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, leaving firefighters, residents and motorists stranded.

After the viral hoax tweet had “Universal Studios” trending, on Monday another L.A. landmark was trending: “Dodger Stadium.” Aerial video and photography seemed to show the baseball arena encased in floodwaters. However, as The Times and some sharp-eyed users pointed out, the “floodwaters” were not what they appeared to be, and was likely just light reflecting off the wet pavement of the stadium’s massive parking lot.


Tropical Storm Hilary blew past daily rainfall records across Southern California, “just smashing” records across L.A. and Ventura counties.

Aug. 21, 2023

With Hilary making history as the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, Californians held their breaths throughout the weekend as it made its approach up the Pacific, reaching as high as Category 4 hurricane status and killing one person in Mexico. Its rarity left much to the imagination, while some turned to memories of storms on the East Coast, where hurricanes and tropical storms are an annual occurrence.

Chandler of Metro said he noticed some people refer to the flooded subway system in New York City during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. But he said the NYC underground system’s infrastructure is much older than L.A.’s system, which opened what was then the Blue Line in 1990.

In more recent memory for Angelenos, Union Station in downtown L.A. flooded during a string of heavy rainstorms in January and February. Meanwhile, during Hilary there were contractors on hand who could suction away flood waters, Chandler said — but since rain waters never threatened to breach the historic station, their services were never called upon.