Tuesday, May 24 , 2016, 2:35 pm | Partly Cloudy 66º

Winter Storm Makes Waves — and a Few Surprises — as It Rolls through Santa Barbara County

High tides and storm waves damage piers, chase diners from restaurants; roads, beaches and Santa Barbara Harbor closed as precaution

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff | updated logo 11:23 p.m. |

[Click here for a storm photo gallery from Noozhawk staff and readers.]

The wait for a window table at Moby Dick Restaurant on Stearns Wharf was nearly 30 minutes longer on Saturday, with locals hoping to view the high tides of the winter storm up close. Jill Freeland eagerly waited for her own front-row seat.

Sure enough, just as waiters cleared her Goleta family’s breakfast dishes at 9:20 a.m., and before the avid surfer left the steadily rocking pier, a large swell crashed into a nearby restaurant window, shattering the glass and shaking patrons, who amazingly were not seriously injured.

[Scroll down to see Jill Freelands video of window breaking]

“I really didn’t expect it to break,” Freeland told Noozhawk. “Another swell beforehand came pretty close. We were just expecting some excitement. You never know with swell and tide.”

Saturday’s winter storm forced the restaurant to close, along with the outer end of the wharf and a long list of other South Coast locations battered by high tides, heavy surf, gusty winds and pummeling rain.

The worst of the weather system, which arrived in the area late Thursday, was expected to taper off Saturday evening and Sunday, according to Bonnie Bartling, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

A high-surf advisory remained in effect until 5 p.m. Sunday, she said.

The storm kept local authorities scrambling throughout the day, beginning with Goleta Beach Park’s closure and evacuation early Saturday after tides tore into the Beachside Bar-Café and made the area unsafe for visitors.

Part of the Gaviota Pier collapsed into the sea, three boats washed ashore on East Beach and law enforcement closed or recommended spectators stay safely off other South Coast beaches.

Flooding and rocks and debris on local streets caused some closures, including a portion of Harbor Way, Painted Cave Road, Gibraltar Road and Canyon Crossing in the Cuyama Valley.

Fire crews handled fallen trees and also responded to flooding in the basement of the Santa Barbara Police Station, where the City Emergency Dispatch Center is located.

“We’ve been pretty busy,” said Harbor Patrol Officer Ryan Kelly, who noted that extra officers were working this weekend. “Sunday it should be quite a bit better. My biggest warning would be to stay off the beaches during high tides.”

Santa Barbara County areas received a healthy dose of rain in the 24-hour period ending 11 p.m., including 1.88 inches in Santa Barbara, 0.9 inches in Goleta, and more than 2.5 inches in some mountain locations, according to county statistics.

Santa Maria saw 0.3 inches, and 0.67 inches fell in Lompoc.

Nearly 4 inches of rain have fallen in Santa Barbara and Goleta since the storm began, with 1.5 inches in Santa Maria over the same period.

Bartling said more than 5 inches have fallen in mountain areas since Thursday, and, overall, rain totals were as expected.

“You guys didn’t get as much rain as everybody else,” Bartling said, referring to the more than 8 inches that fell in the mountains in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

She said Sunday would bring a 40-percent chance of showers, with a high of 63 degrees and low of 54.

Partly cloudy conditions Monday morning were expected to clear for sunnier skies and warmer temperatures in the 70s next week.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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.

» Big Waves Destroy Part of Gaviota Pier; More Damage Possible

» Storm Surf Forces Evacuation, Closure of Goleta Beach

Wave Smashes Moby Dick's Window from Noozhawk on Vimeo.

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