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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 5:40 pm | Fair 59º


Flash-Flood Watch in Effect as Storm Moves East; Santa Ynez River Nearing Flood Stage

As Lake Cachuma spills, river approaching 15-foot flood level; 18.8-foot crest expected late Sunday; no evacuations ordered yet

The National Weather Service downgraded Sunday’s flash-flood warning to a flash-flood watch and extended Santa Barbara County’s flood advisory until 9:15 p.m. The rain-swollen Santa Ynez River was causing new fears as it surged through the Lompoc Valley.

As night fell Sunday, the weather service said Doppler radar was tracking a wide area of moderate to heavy rainfall across much of the county, with the heaviest rainfall moving east of Santa Barbara. By 8 p.m. Sunday, additional heavy showers had begun moving ashore from the Santa Barbara Channel. Thunderstorms were possible, as well.

Rainfall rates between an inch and 1½ inches an hour were expected through late Sunday on the South Coast, the weather service said.

Multiple warnings, watches and advisories remain in effect for the county, including a storm warning, the flash-flood watch, and flooding, high-surf and small-craft advisories. Significant flooding of roads and small streams is expected to continue through Monday morning. No evacuation orders have been issued but authorities said residents in low-lying or flood-prone areas should be prepared to leave on short notice.

Officials issued a flood warning for the Santa Ynez River. At 2 p.m. Sunday, the river was running at a depth of 12.1 feet. By 4 p.m. Sunday, however, the river was expected to be above its 15-foot flood-stage level. Officials say the river should crest at around 18.8 feet at 11 p.m. Sunday and fall to below flood stage by Monday night. The weather service said the previous high crest was 18 feet on Jan. 11, 2005.

Because of the dramatic rise in lake levels — Lake Cachuma had recorded 11.07 inches of rainfall from the storm and began spilling Sunday afternoon — the Bureau of Reclamation was releasing water at Bradbury Dam.

The downstream threat to the Lompoc Valley was being closely monitored, said David Flamm, a spokesman for the county Office of Emergency Services.

Sunday’s flood warning includes Floradale Avenue and the bridge between Floradale and Santa Lucia Canyon Road, Bailey Avenue to Renwick Avenue, and Ocean Avenue to the Santa Ynez River. Flamm said none of the advisories include the city of Lompoc — at this time.

Authorities said several vehicles were reported trapped on Paradise Road in the vicinity of Highway 154, with water up to their windows. No other details were available Sunday night, however.

Early Sunday, the Coast Guard and the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol rescued a family of four, including a 6-month-old infant and a dog, after their sailboat broke free of its mooring off Santa Barbara.

The county Fire Department has increased staffing and Capt. David Sadecki, a department spokesman, said six engines, a 12-member hotshot crew, the construction section, a rescue helicopter with rescue swimmers, the water rescue team and one battalion chief are on duty.

Officials said the county Flood Control Department has increased field monitoring staff and is closely watching major rivers and streams.

The Office of Emergency Services was receiving numerous reports of downed trees, boulders and rocks on area roads, said Flamm, who added that the California Highway Patrol was reporting multiple vehicle accidents.

Flamm said East Camino Cielo is closed between Painted Cave and Gibraltar Road because of rock and mud slides, and flooding in Montecito has forced the closure of the Cold Springs crossing on East Mountain Drive and the Romero crossing on Bella Vista Drive off Romero Canyon Road. He said there may be other closures around the county.

The southbound Highway 101 exit ramp was flooded at Evans Avenue in Summerland, nearly a foot of water covered the intersection of Olive Mill Road and North Jameson Lane in Montecito, and water was cascading down Parra Grande Lane from Riven Rock Road in Montecito.

Residents and motorists were advised to be aware of dangerous road flooding and rapidly rising creeks and streams. Authorities urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel and asked people to stay away from creeks and rivers. Swiftly flowing water of unknown depth should not be crossed, either by foot or automobile.

A daylong high-wind warning was canceled at 6 p.m. Sunday after steady winds of 25 to 35 mph, with gusts as high as 65 mph recorded. Officials said the storm delivered the strongest winds of the winter season, which actually ended Sunday afternoon with the spring equinox at 4:21 p.m.

As of 8 p.m. Sunday, the county Public Works Department reported that El Deseo Ranch off East Camino Cielo above Montecito had recorded 10.63 inches of rainfall in the last 48 hours, San Marcos Pass 10.43 inches, Tecolote Canyon west of Goleta 8.55 inches, Mount Calvary 7.94 inches, Goleta 6.31 inches, downtown Santa Barbara 5.53 inches, the Gaviota coast 4.5 inches and Carpinteria 4.47 inches. Lake Cachuma had recorded 11.07 inches, the most in the county.

A high-surf advisory is in effect until 9 a.m. Monday. Breakers of 6 to 8 feet are expected through early Monday on exposed south-facing beaches and strong rip currents are likely. Officials said high astronomical tides may cause tidal overflows, beach erosion and minor flooding of low-lying areas.

A storm warning remains in effect for the Santa Barbara Channel between Point Conception and Point Mugu. Winds with frequent gusts up to 50 knots and rough seas are forecast.

Recreational boaters are advised to stay in port or take shelter until winds and waves subside. Commercial vessels are also advised to prepare for very strong winds and dangerous seas.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Coast Guard and harbor patrol crews rescued a family of four, including a 6-month-old infant and their dog, early Sunday after their sailboat broke free from its mooring. Weather conditions at the time included wind gusts of 30 to 40 knots and sea swells between 6 and 8 feet.

According to the Times, an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter from Air Station Los Angeles, a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Channel Islands Harbor and a harbor patrol boat were involved in the rescue. A rescue swimmer was lowered to the sailboat’s deck and assisted as the family members and the dog were transferred to the harbor patrol vessel and brought to safety. There were no injuries, the Times said.

Sunday’s high temperatures were expected to reach the low 60s, with overnight lows in the 40s.

Steady showers are forecast for Monday as the storm moves out, with high temperatures in the low 60s.

Tuesday should be mostly sunny with highs in the mid-60s.

Another storm system may be headed toward the Central Coast by midweek.

Saturday’s storm obscured a rare “super full moon” — a phenomenon that makes the moon appear about 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a typical full moon because of its proximity to the Earth — along the South Coast. The last time the moon’s oval orbit brought it so close to Earth was in 1993.

Click here for the complete National Weather Service forecast.

Click here for the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department’s interactive precipitation map.

» Click here for the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services. Click here to sign up for the OES’ messaging service. Follow the OES on Facebook.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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