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Santa Ynez River at Center of Flood Stage as Storm Moves On

Farms west of Lompoc on alert for river's crest; officials closely watching Cachuma to manage lake's release downstream

As a powerful Pacific storm began moving east out of Santa Barbara County late Sunday after a daylong deluge, attention focused on what was happening behind the storm on the county’s western edge.

Late Sunday, the city of Guadalupe evacuated two dozen residents along flood-prone Pioneer Street near the Santa Maria River. Guadalupe’s city hall was turned into a makeshift shelter but county Office of Emergency Services spokesman David Flamm said emergency crews were able to avert the flood threat. Residents were allowed to return to their homes just before midnight.

Meanwhile, 25 miles to the south, Lompoc residents and officials were warily watching the Santa Ynez River, which was racing through the Lompoc Valley swollen with rain and water released through Bradbury Dam to keep Lake Cachuma at a safe level.

The National Weather Service said a flood warning is in effect until 7 p.m. Monday for an area west of Lompoc bounded by Bailey Avenue west to Renwick Avenue and north of Ocean Boulevard to the river. The Floradale Avenue bridge is of particular concern, the weather service said.

Flamm said no evacuations have been ordered, but residents are being advised to remain prepared to leave on very short notice. About 16 agricultural properties are in the immediate warning zone.

Late Sunday, the OES said Lake Cachuma was discharging approximately 20,000 cubic feet of water per second into the Santa Ynez River, down from a high of 23,147 cubic feet per second around 8 p.m. Sunday. Still, OES officials and hydrology experts with the Bureau of Reclamation said they remained concerned that the volume of water entering the lake may require an increased release, which could result in flooding downstream.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that the amount being discharged from Lake Cachuma will not be so much that flooding in the area west of Lompoc will occur,” said OES emergency operations chief Michael Harris, who added that authorities were prepared to quickly alert at-risk residents.

At 8 p.m. Sunday, the river was running at 17.7 feet, 2.7 feet above its 15-foot flood stage. Although a crest of 19.5 feet had been expected, the river had dropped to 17.5 feet by 3 a.m. Monday. Weather service officials said the river will fall below flood stage around 10 p.m. Monday. The previous high crest was 18 feet on Jan. 11, 2005.

Minor flooding was reported in isolated areas downstream.

The storm at the heart of Sunday’s downpour was expected to wind down overnight, but hazardous conditions and advisories will remain into Monday. Scattered showers and thunderstorms were possible early Monday and the weather service warned that any significant rainfall could continue to trigger debris flows from saturated hillsides, especially in the Jesusita Fire burn area.

A high-surf advisory is in effect until 9 a.m. Monday and dangerous rip currents were possible at area beaches. Mariners will face a chance of thunderstorms and waterspouts in the Santa Barbara Channel throughout the day Monday.

Showers and clouds are expected to diminish by late Monday morning but another round of storms is expected to hit the Central Coast by early Wednesday and hang around into the weekend.

By 1 a.m. Monday, skies had begun to clear over Santa Barbara, revealing a near-full moon that on Saturday had been at a rare “super full moon” status — 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. The last time the moon’s oval orbit brought it so close to Earth was in 1993. Because of Saturday’s cloud cover, it was invisible to the South Coast, however.

Sunday’s storm dropped massive amounts of rain on the county. As of 2:30 a.m. Monday, the county Public Works Department reported that Gibraltar Reservoir had recorded 11.30 inches of rainfall in the previous 48 hours, the most in the county. Lake Cachuma recorded 11.07 inches.

El Deseo Ranch off East Camino Cielo above Montecito reported 10.67 inches of rainfall, San Marcos Pass 10.63 inches, Tecolote Canyon west of Goleta 8.65 inches, Mount Calvary 7.94 inches, Goleta 6.39 inches, downtown Santa Barbara 5.56 inches, the Gaviota coast 4.52 inches and Carpinteria 4.48 inches.

Flamm said the Office of Emergency Services received numerous reports of downed trees, boulders and rocks on area roads, and the California Highway Patrol reported multiple vehicle accidents. Steady winds of 25 to 35 mph swept the area Sunday, with gusts up to 65 mph.

East Camino Cielo is closed between Painted Cave and Gibraltar Road because of rock and mud slides, and flooding in Montecito forced the closure of the Cold Springs crossing on East Mountain Drive and the Romero crossing on Bella Vista Drive off Romero Canyon Road.

Sunday night, 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. The tennis courts were underwater at Santa Barbara’s Municipal Tennis Center, 1414 Park Place at Old Coast Highway.

Early Sunday, the Coast Guard and the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol joined forces to rescue a family of four, including a 6-month-old infant and a dog, after the family’s sailboat broke free of its mooring off Santa Barbara.

The were no injuries in the rescue, which involved an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter and a Coast Guard rescue swimmer from Air Station Los Angeles, a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Channel Islands Harbor and a harbor patrol vessel, authorities said. Weather conditions at the time included wind gusts of 30 to 40 knots and sea swells between 6 and 8 feet.

The county Fire Department increased staffing to deal with a steady flow of emergency calls Sunday. 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 were on duty.

Officials said the county Flood Control Department has increased its field monitoring staff and was closely watching major rivers, streams and area debris basins.

The weather service said Monday should be mostly sunny with high temperatures in the upper 50s and overnight lows in the 40s.

Tuesday should be sunny and warmer, with highs in the low 60s and overnight lows in the 40s. Wind gusts to 15 mph are likely to herald the approach of the region’s next storm, which is expected to move ashore early Wednesday.

Wednesday’s forecast has a 70 percent chance of rain, and conditions are likely to be mostly cloudy and breezy, with a high near 60. Unsettled conditions and a chance of showers are in the forecast through the weekend.

» 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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