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Local News

Santa Barbara County Appears to Be Weathering Storm

Flooding threat at Goleta Slough eliminated after permit granted to breach sandbar

[Scroll to the bottom to see Lara Cooper's video of the Goleta Slough opening up]

A tree fell onto a vehicle at State and Pedregosa streets in Santa Barbara on Friday afternoon. (Urban Hikers photo)

A potent weather system swept through Santa Barbara County on Friday, causing minor mayhem throughout the region, but no serious incidents were reported.

Downed trees and power lines, blown transformers, and minor flooding kept emergency crews busy throughout the day, and officials were keeping a watchful eye as heavy rains were still possible at times through Saturday.

The greatest flooding concern was focused on the Goleta Slough, which was backing up with storm runoff Friday morning and threatening to inundate the adjacent Santa Barbara Airport.

[Click here for a gallery of photos from Friday's storm.]

The mouth of the slough has been blocked for more than a year while Santa Barbara County officials have wrangled with federal fisheries officials — who are concerned over negatively affecting endangered steelhead trout — about whether it should be reopened.

The Santa Barbara County Flood Control District's permit to open the slough expired in 2012, and the sandbar at the eastern end of Goleta Beach County Park was last breached under an emergency permit in December 2012.

But on Friday morning, with storm runoff threatening to encroach on the airport's taxi ways, the county received an emergency permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to breach the slough.

As soon as a backhoe broke through the sandbar, trapped water began surging out to the ocean, eliminating that possibility that future downpours will caused flooding in the area.

County officials said some buildings in the park were flooded, although details were not available.

Rainfall totals through the day Friday were on target with forecasts from the National Weather Service, which predicted two-day storm totals of 2-4 inches near the coast, 4-7 inches in the foothills, and up to 10 inches in some mountain locations.

Two young children take a walk in the rain Friday at the Santa Barbara breakwater. (Fritz Olenberger photo)

By mid-afternoon, Santa Barbara and Goleta had both received roughly 2 inches since late Thursday night,  while San Marcos Pass recorded 3.35 inches, and Lake Cachuma measured 4.27 inches, according to the county Public Works Department.

Lompoc had more than 2.5 inches, while Santa Maria received just under an inch.

Despite the significant precipitation, county officials said they do not expect much if any runoff into depleted local reservoirs.

Throughout the day, firefighters and utility works responded to calls for trees limbs that had fallen into power lines, and onto houses and cars.

No injuries were reported, but as many as 5,000 Southern California Edison customers lost power for parts of the day on the South Coast — on the Eastside and Mesa in Santa Barbara, and in Montecito and Isla Vista.

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.

Goleta Slough Opened from Noozhawk on Vimeo.

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