Big Storm Bringing Heavy Rainfall to Santa Barbara County, Especially Thursday | Local News -

Monday, May 3 , 2021, 9:39 pm | Fair with Haze 57º


The big storm drenching Santa Barbara County will bring heavy rainfall, strong winds and cold temperatures to the region, and National Weather Service officials said there could be a flash flood watch issued Thursday morning for communities near the Cave Fire burn area. 

Some county areas had received more than 2 inches of rainfall by midday Wednesday, when the storm was dropping larger amounts of rain north of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, according to the National Weather Service

The total rain amounts from this storm combined with the expected rainfall rates, which could reach 1 inch per hour in some areas, raise the potential of significant flash flooding and debris flows near burn scars on the Central Coast, the NWS said in a forecast discussion on Wednesday morning

The NWS assigned Santa Barbara County a "marginal risk" of excessive rainfall causing rapid onset flooding, while Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties have a higher risk. 

Heavy rainfall from the atmospheric river is expected across the Santa Barbara South Coast and adjacent foothills, with rainfall totals of 2-5 inches for the coast and 5-8 inches in foothill areas of the Santa Ynez Range, the National Weather Service forecast discussion said.

Click to view larger
(National Weather Service photo)

The heaviest rain is not expected to reach these areas until Thursday morning. Rain may be heavy at times Thursday afternoon on the South Coast, and there is a slight chance of thunderstorms Thursday night, which can cause higher rainfall rates, the forecast said. 

There is a good chance that the NWS will issue a flash flood watch for the Cave Fire burn scar in Santa Barbara County Thursday morning, but details were pending Wednesday.

Santa Barbara County has a flooding and debris flow risk map for communities below the Cave Fire burn area, especially along creeks in the eastern Goleta Valley. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County has a flooding and debris flow risk map for communities below the Cave Fire burn area, especially along creeks in the eastern Goleta Valley.  (Santa Barbara County photo)

The 2019 Cave Fire burned 3,126 acres and communities at risk of post-fire flooding and debris flows include neighborhoods along creeks in the eastern Goleta Valley.  

County officials created a storm-related risk map for the 2019 Cave Fire burn area in the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara, which can be viewed online by clicking here.

Storm Preparedness 

Public safety agencies are monitoring the storm and conditions for potential flooding and debris flows. 

“Now is the time to prepare or update your family emergency plan, refresh your emergency kit and protect your home from potential flooding,” said Kelly Hubbard, director of the Office of Emergency Management, in a statement.

A dusting of snow along Figueroa Mountain Road Click to view larger
A dusting of snow along Figueroa Mountain Road on Wednesday. The storm moving through the area could drop several inches of snow in mountain areas. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

“Keep in mind any additional needs of individuals in your family with access and functional needs and other disabilities. Plan ahead for pets and livestock. And consider any COVID-19-related updates to your emergency kit, such as face coverings and hand sanitizer.”

No county agencies had issued evacuation warnings or orders in Santa Barbara County as of Wednesday, but officials urged people to make a plan and take action when they need to.

“If at any time people feel unsafe or threatened by a storm, or any other hazard, they should relocate to a safe area,” county Sheriff Bill Brown said. “Do not wait for an alert or public safety personnel to tell you to leave.”

People should also have a plan to protect their property and lives, including in situations where it is not safe to evacuate. For example, going to a higher floor in a home, to a neighbor’s home on higher ground, or sheltering in place.

County officials offered the additional storm preparedness tips:

» Inspect your property to determine if outdoor equipment should be moved indoors or if sandbags are needed to prevent flooding (click here for more information on sandbag locations).

» Make or update an emergency kit ( to learn more).

» Have an emergency plan for your household, including writing phone numbers, addresses and prescription.

Santa Barbara County has a flooding and debris flow risk map for communities below the Thomas Fire burn area in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria Valley. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County has a flooding and debris flow risk map for communities below the Thomas Fire burn area in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria Valley.  (Santa Barbara County photo)

» Charge mobile and medical devices in case of a storm-induced power outage.

» Consider relocating to a hotel if you cannot drive at night or have significant mobility concerns.

» Ensure the safety of pets and animals that are kept outdoors.

» Stay informed during the storm and prepared to take action should the situation in your area become unsafe.

“Have a go-kit ready at all times with food and water for you and your pets, flashlights, medications, important documents, cash and other critical supplies,” county Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said. “Stay informed of the latest weather forecasts and be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. When ordered to go, leave immediately.”

Santa Barbara County recently updated its risk map for flooding and debris flows below the Thomas Fire burn area in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria. That can be viewed online by clicking here, and the county has more storm preparedness resources available at

Officials have identified about 445 parcels that are at-risk if there’s a saturating rainfall event followed by a high-intensity, short-duration rainfall during storms. A saturating rainfall event is defined as 8 to 10 inches of rain in less than 48 hours, with a high intensity, short-duration thunderstorm or other rainfall event embedded in it, according to county officials.

Sign up for emergency alert messages from the county online here, or by following the prompts at

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The Nixle alert system sends 138-character messages, and residents can sign up by texting their ZIP code to the number 888777.

The Thomas Fire Storm Impact Considerations Map and FEMA flood risk map are available to view online at

A wind advisory will be in effect until 4 p.m. Thursday on Santa Barbara County’s South Coast, including the areas of Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria.

South to southeast winds of 15-25 mph, with gusts to 40 mph are predicted. Forecasters said isolated gusts as high as 50 mph are predicted in the hills. 

Vehicle travel on roadways may be impacted by gusty crosswinds, including Highway 101, Highway 154 and Highway 192 in Santa Barbara County, forecasters said.

A pedestrian makes his way through the rain in downtown Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
A pedestrian makes his way through the rain in downtown Santa Barbara. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

“Gusty winds will blow around unsecured objects and make driving difficult, especially for high profile vehicles,” the warning said. “Tree limbs could be blown down and a few power outages may result.”

24-hour Precipitation Totals and Road Closures

Rainfall totals in the county on Wednesday morning ranged from less than a quarter of an inch to more than 2 inches, with the highest 24-hour precipitation tallies in North County, according to the Public Works Department.

Shortly before 11 a.m., San Julian Ranch on Highway 1 between Gaviota and Lompoc had the highest 24-hour total from the storm at 2.71 inches, followed by 2.58 inches at Celite south of Lompoc.

The 24-hour totals included 1.95 inches in Lompoc, 1.67 inches in Guadalupe, 1.66 inches in Solvang, 0.82 inches at the Goleta Water District, 0.71 inches in downtown Santa Barbara, 0.61 inches in Santa Maria, 0.38 inches in Summerland, 0.45 in Montecito and 0.20 inches in Carpinteria.

Readings also showed a rainfall gauge at Alisal Reservoir near Solvang recorded 2.21 inches of rain, and the Las Cruces area south of Buellton at 1.79 inches.

Jameson Reservoir had 0.50 inches, and Lake Cachuma received about 1.60 inches of rain as of Wednesday morning. 

Lake Cachuma was more than 63% full as of 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to the county Flood Control District. Montecito’s Jameson Reservoir was at 74% capacity.

Gibraltar Reservoir, upstream on the Santa Ynez River, had 1.16 inches of rainfall during the current storm, and at least 9.5% of its capacity.

Rainfall totals were expected to increase since more precipitation is forecast to continue through Friday, the NWS said.

Storm-related roadway closures have already been reported in Santa Barbara County and adjacent counties.

Canada Geese and other birds take refuge from the storm Wednesday at Girsh Park in Goleta. Click to view larger
Canada Geese and other birds take refuge from the storm Wednesday at Girsh Park in Goleta. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Highway 1 on the Big Sur Coast is closed between Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County and Deetjen's Big Sur Inn in Monterey County through 5 p.m. Thursday, according to Caltrans District 5 spokesman Jim Shivers.

“Caltrans has joined its partners to minimize travel in this area during an anticipated strong winter storm,” Shivers wrote on Twitter.

Highway 1 is closed at Division Street near Guadalupe in Santa Barbara County because of flooding, Shivers said. There is no estimate for opening.

Interstate 5 is closed in both directions through the Grapevine area because of snow and ice, Caltrans said Wednesday morning. 

Northbound lanes of Interstate 5 are closed at Lake Hughes Road in Castaic in northern Los Angeles County. The southbound side of Interstate 5 is closed at Grapevine Road in Kern County.

There is no estimated reopening time for Interstate 5, Caltrans said, and the highway reopening is depending on the weather.

» Click here to check road conditions from Caltrans.

» Click here for updated information on county road closures

» Click here for the latest Santa Barbara weather forecast.

» Click here for the latest Santa Maria weather forecast.

» Click here for the latest Lompoc weather forecast.

» Click here for the latest Santa Ynez Valley weather forecast.

» Click here to sign up for Noozhawk's Breaking News text alerts.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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