Santa Barbara felt temperatures just below 40 degrees Fahrenheit Wednesday night, but above the clouds at 20,000 feet, it was more like negative 26 degrees, cold enough to form hail, which blanketed downtown after pounding down last night. The sound of dripping eaves and trickling downspouts filled side streets as the sun rose.
Some of the roughly half inch of rain coming down got lifted up beyond the clouds by strong updraft winds, turning to ice, explained Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “The small hail can’t stay up there long,” he said. “We got a pretty good accumulation downtown last night, maybe an inch or so of ice. It was pretty cold, so it didn’t melt very quickly.”
The County Administration Building recorded 1.5 inches of rain in the two-day storm, the highest total in all the county with the exception of Bald Mountain, a 5,000-foot peak in the San Rafael Wilderness, that got an inch and three-quarters. As a whole, the county is in a rainfall deficit, getting only 57 percent of the rain it would expect by March.
Another system like the one that produced hail is forming now off Point Conception, Boldt said, and could reach Santa Barbara in the early afternoon. “There’s still a potential for little hailstorms, the occasional steady downpour, or even a flash of lightning,” he offered, saying it would end by this evening.
The forecast is dry. A weak storm system looks to arrive to the Central Coast on Monday, but if any rain fell, it’d just be in the mountains, Boldt said.