Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 2:42 pm | Overcast 61º


Local News

‘Atmospheric River’ Bringing Heavy Rain to Santa Barbara County

'Pineapple Express' expected to hit Thursday night; gusty winds, big waves also forecast

An "atmospheric river" is poised to bring substantial rainfall to Santa Barbara County beginning late Thursday, with another storm expected to move through the region early next week, according to the National Weather Service.

The heaviest precipitation is expected late Thursday night into Friday, said meteorologist Scott Sukup with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

"It looks like it's going to be a pretty good storm for us," Sukup said.

Rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches are likely in coastal areas, and up to 4 inches in some mountain locations, he said.

The forecast was calling for an 80-percent chance of rain Thursday, mainly after 4 p.m., increasing to 100 percent during the overnight hours. Friday will start out with an 80-percent change, diminishing to 30 percent Friday night.

There is a chance of waterspouts over the ocean, with those that make landfall becoming weak tornadoes, forecasters said.

The heaviest rain in Santa Barbara is expected for three to four hours beginning at midnight Thursday, Sukup said, and starting a bit earlier in the North County.

Sukup explained that the "atmospheric river" — often called the "Pineapple Express" in this area — refers to a relatively narrow stream of sub-tropical moist air that gets sucked in by a low-pressure system moving down from the north.

When that happens, rainfall amounts can be enhanced, especially along south-facing slopes.

The columns of moist air hitting the West Coast can extend west to the Hawaiian Islands, hence the name "Pineapple Express."

"We usually get them a couple times per winter," Sukup noted, "but obviously not the last couple years."

Gusty winds and high surf also are expected to accompany the rains, Sukup said.

Winds of 30 to 40 mph, with gusts to 50 mph, are possible as the storm passes through the region overnight Thursday, Sukup said.

A wind advisory will be in effect for parts of Santa Barbara County from 2 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Thursday.

The surf will build Thursday afternoon, with the largest breakers expected on west-facing beaches. A High Surf Advisory will be in effect from 4 a.m. Thursday until 3 p.m. Saturday.

Surf will start out at 4 to 6 feet Thursday, and increase overnight and Friday into Saturday.

Breakers of 7 to 10 feet are predicted with sets up to 13 feet.

Forecasters were warning that the waves may overtop jetties and seawalls, and wash into low-lying areas and parking lots, especially during high-tide periods.

High tides Friday will occur at 2:20 a.m (3.79 feet) and 12:35 p.m. (4.01 feet).

Skies should clear Saturday and Sunday, Sukup said, but another system was expected to bring substantial rainfall to the area late Monday into Tuesday.

After last week's storm, some areas of Santa Barbara County were above normal rainfall for the season, and the coming storm is expected to boost those numbers.

It remains to be seen whether it causes significant runoff into depleted local reservoirs.

Sandbags are available at the city of Santa Barbara’s Corporate Annex Yard, 401 E. Yanonali St.:

» Regular Open Hours: 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. until further notice or as posted.

» Limit:  20 sandbags per resident per trip.

» Residents must fill sandbags themselves. Bring gloves and shovel if possible.

» Sandbags are free to city residents.

» No contractors will be allowed to take sandbags.

Sandbags also are available at several locations throughout the county:

» County Fire Station 14, 320 N. Los Carneros Road, Goleta.

» Santa Barbara Maintenance Yard, 4568 County Dump Road, near Goleta.

» Santa Maria Maintenance Yard, 912 W. Foster Road, Santa Maria.

» Montecito Fire Station 1, 595 San Ysidro Road, Montecito.

» Santa Ynez Fire Station 32, 906 Airport Road, Santa Ynez.

Sand bags are not pre-filled.

More information concerning sand bags is available on the Flood Control Hotline at 805.568.3451 or mainline at 805.568.3440.

[Click here for the latest forecast]

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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.

A surfer catches a wave Wednesday afternoon at the Santa Barbara Harbor Breakwater. Higher surf, especially on west-facing beaches, is expected to accompany a major storm forecasters say will douse the region Thursday night into Friday. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

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