The wettest, wildest weather since March will descend on the South Coast this week, arriving Monday night and lasting through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Santa Barbara County and the rest of Southern California are slated to experience “significant rain,” the agency reported, with 1-2 inches projected for coastal areas and 2-5 inches predicted for the foothill and mountain regions. A window of about three hours on Tuesday could bring the mightiest downpour, with experts forecasting rates of a half-inch per hour that could mean flash flooding and mudslides. Strong winds — as forceful as 50 miles per hour at higher elevations — will also accompany the rain.
Monday night comes with a 20 percent chance of rain and southeast winds whipping at 15 miles per hour. Rain will fall all day Tuesday, with winds picking up to 25 miles per hour during the day and 30 miles per hour into the evening. The gusts will weaken into Wednesday, which will see a 50 percent chance of showers during the day and a 20 percent chance at night. The NWS is forecasting a clear Thursday but stated that showers are 20 percent likely on Friday night and into Saturday morning.
The Santa Barbara area last got drenched on Halloween, when gauges measured between 0.75 and 1.6 inches across the county. But this week’s storm could rival the one that hit the region in late February and early March. During that four-day period, 5.7 inches of rain fell in downtown Santa Barbara, according to County Public Works.
The expected deluge has prompted the county’s Environmental Health Services division to issue a warning about storm-water runoff, which will make its way into waterways and the ocean. Contact with the water could increase the likelihood of rashes, fever, chills, ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea, the division noted, warning against swimming and surfing in the ocean and creeks for up to three days after the storm. Shellfish fishermen are also advised to wait 10 days to harvest, as the runoff could contaminate the shellfish beds.
Although welcome, the heavy rainfall won’t mean instant help for the drought conditions, said county water czar Tom Fayram. Multiple, successive storms — and 10-15 inches over the season — are what’s needed for improved runoff levels, Fayram said, adding that Lake Cachuma could come up a couple of inches. “It’s not going to help in terms of the drought immediately,” Fayram said. “We definitely need it. You have to start somewhere.”