The fierce Pacific storm that pounded Northern California with heavy rain and high winds continued to weaken considerably as it moved down the coast Tuesday.
Mostly minor traffic accidents and scattered power outages were reported in Santa Barbara County as of late Tuesday. Most important, fire-ravaged hillsides appeared to be holding, although a small rock slide forced the closure of Gibraltar Road north of El Cielito.
Nevertheless, the National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning for areas below the Gap, Jesusita and Tea fire burn areas. Early Wednesday, the warning was downgraded to a watch and was in effect until about 11 a.m.
A high-wind warning was lifted early Wednesday. Officials had said Tuesday night that southeast to south winds of 30 to 45 mph would continue until early Wednesday, with damaging gusts of up to 65 mph likely.
The weather service reported Wednesday morning that the heaviest South Coast rainfall was recorded at Mount Calvary Retreat House, with 5 inches in the last 24 hours; Maria Ygnacio Ridge, with 5.31 inches; and on the Edison Trail in the Summerland Greenwell Preserve, with 7.32 inches. Santa Barbara logged 3.61 inches, Goleta 3.6 and Montecito 2.62.
Higher up the mountain, however, San Marcos Pass received 9.74 inches, La Cumbre Peak 6.66, Refugio Pass 6.11 and Gibraltar Dam 5.27. El Deseo Ranch off East Camino Cielo recorded 9.02 inches. Since the storm’s arrival, rainfall rates have been up to a half-inch an hour across much of the Santa Ynez Mountains, according to the weather service.
Early Wednesday, power outages were reported in some downtown Santa Barbara neighborhoods. More than 25,000 PG&E customers lost power in San Luis Obispo County as a result of the wet, windy weather, utility officials said. In Los Angeles County, the storm was blamed for outages that affected more than 12,000 residents.
County Public Works crews worked throughout the day Wednesday to clear out debris racks.
Late Tuesday, Doppler radar was charting moderate to locally heavy rain throughout Santa Barbara County — conditions that were expected to persist overnight. Wednesday’s forecast is mostly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of showers and temperatures in the upper 60s.
The rain is forecast to clear out by Thursday, which is expected to be sunny with temperatures in the low 70s.
Sunshine and temperatures in the mid-70s are expected this weekend — a forecast that will cheer officials of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, whose 18th annual California Lemon Festival opens Friday.
The Lemon Festival, located at Girsh Park, includes food, live music, pie-eating contests, rides, arts and crafts vendors, Safety Street, the Goleta Fall Classic Car & Street Rod Show, and a Green Business trade show. Festival rides will be available from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, and the full festival is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
In preparation for the winter rainy season, Santa Barbara County crews oversaw the application of aerial hydromulching to more than 1,000 acres in the Jesusita Fire burn area last week. The U.S. Forest Service will soon begin its own aerial hydromulching on about 200 acres of Los Padres National Forest.
In May, the Jesusita Fire burned about 8,700 acres as it raged above Santa Barbara, forcing the evacuation of more than 30,000 residents. The wildfire scorched several important watersheds and wildlife areas, placing them at risk for increased amounts of debris, sediment and runoff.
Sandbag stations remain open for local residents, county officials said Tuesday. There is no limit but residents must fill sandbags themselves and bring their own gloves. Contractors are barred from taking sandbags.
» Santa Barbara County Fire Station 11, 6901 Frey Way; open 24 hours a day
» County Fire Station 14, 320 N. Los Carneros Road; open 24 hours
» County Corporate Yard, 4430 Calle Real, next to the Transfer Station; open 24 hours
» Northern terminus of Tunnel Road; open 24 hours
» Santa Barbara Botanic Garden parking lot, 1212 Mission Canyon Road; open 24 hours
» Montecito Fire Station No. 2, 595 San Ysidro Road; open 24 hours
» City of Santa Barbara Annex Yard, 401 E. Yanonali St.; open 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through Friday
On Monday, meanwhile, a stormwater runoff advisory was issued by the county Public Health Department. The public is advised to avoid swimming or playing in the ocean or creeks for at least three days, or at least to avoid discolored water and areas near pipes or creeks flowing into the ocean.