Snow on San Marcos Pass and in the mountains and wilderness areas of Santa Barbara County and heavy rain and winds have prompted the Office of Emergency Services to issue a winter storm warning. The storm sweeping into Santa Barbara this evening, Friday, February 18, is expected to last through Saturday night, with the warning in effect until 3 a.m. Sunday morning.
The snow will stay at around 5,500 feet through this afternoon, dropping as low as 3,500 feet by Saturday. Four to eight inches of snow are expected above 4,000 feet (the height of La Cumbre Peak) and 12 to 18 inches at elevations above 5,500 feet (Mt. Piños is almost 9,000 feet tall).
The “combination of snow and blowing snow will cause near zero visibilities” in the mountains at times, making conditions dangerous for anyone traveling or hiking, according to the Office of Emergency Services, which suggests that those who must travel keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in their vehicles.
As for the winds, they are expected to keep blowing from the south and southeast this afternoon, increasing to 35 and 40 miles per hour with gusts to 70 miles per hour; before shifting to the west and diminishing somewhat late tonight.
An advisory sent out earlier today said thunderstorms may occur and that the foothills face three to six inches of rain, while the coast and valley are expected to receive anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 inches. Higher totals are possible on the south-facing slopes of Santa Barbara. The advisory also said that rates could exceed an inch of rain per hour.
Of particular concern are areas affected by wildfires, including the Jesusita burn area. The flash-flood watch will continue at least until Saturday night, and may continue longer for the areas burned. Areas both above and below the fire damage may be subject to flash floods and debris flow. Proper precautions should be taken to protect homes in the burnt area.
Urban flooding is also possible. People are advised to stay alert and follow any directions issued by emergency service officials.