A powerful winter storm began lashing Santa Barbara and the Central Coast late Thursday night, dropping generous amounts of rainfall overnight in a soaking that was expected to extend into Sunday.
At 10 p.m., weather radar showed a large mass of moisture sitting just offshore from Santa Barbara County, and rain began falling before midnight.
"We're just in the hurry-up-and-wait mode," said Bonnie Bartling, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, late Thurday night. "We're definitely expecting a good rain tomorrow."
By 7 a.m. Friday, Santa Barbara and Goleta both had received 1.6 inches of rain, which comes on the heels of a similar amount from a storm on Wednesday. Montecito had 1.42 inches and Carpinteria got 1.02 inches.
The Celite plant south of Lompoc was Santa Barbara County's wettest spot at 3.35 inches, while Cuyama in the county's northeast corner was the driest at 0.27 inches.
Lompoc measured 2.2 inches and Santa Maria received 0.67 inches.
The forecast was calling for 2-4 inches of rain Friday into Saturday along the coast and in low-lying valleys, Bartling said.
The foothills were expected to get 4-7 inches, and some mountain areas could see as much as 10 inches before the storm moves out of the area on Sunday, Bartling said.
The chance of rain overnight and through Friday was put at 100 percent, dropping to 90 percent on Saturday, and gradually diminishing into Sunday.
A flood advisory in effect through 1:45 p.m. was issued for the county as rainfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour are possible at times during the storm in some locations.
The powerful storm — the biggest in three years, according to Bartling — will be accompanied by blustery conditions.
Southerly winds of 20-35 mph — with gusts to 45 mph — were forecast for southern Santa Barbara County, prompting forecasters to issue a wind advisory from midnight until 10 a.m. Friday, Bartling said.
Gusts up to 70 mph are possible in some locations, Bartling said, adding that travel into mountain areas is strongly discouraged.
The powerful weather system may spawn some thunderstorms, with a chance of waterspouts over the ocean and weak tornados possible over land.
Snow levels from the storm could drop as low as 5,100 feet, which could affect travel in the mountains and on Interstate 5 over the Grapevine north of Los Angeles, Bartling said.
A high-surf advisory also was issued from midnight Friday until 5 p.m. Sunday, with breakers to 15 feet possible along some west-facing beaches.
Daytime highs were expected in the low 60s, with overnight lows in the low 50s through Sunday.
Sunny skies were forecast to return Monday and continue through next week.