Friday, August 17 , 2018, 3:31 am | Fair 68º


Local News

Santa Barbara County Gets Splash of April Showers

Though the 2015–2016 water year has been a smidgen better for Santa Barbara County than the previous few, water resources continue to shrink

Rain falls on Isla Vista Friday morning as the first of two expected storms moving through Santa Barbara County.
Rain falls on Isla Vista Friday morning as the first of two expected storms moving through Santa Barbara County.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

April showers found their way to the South Coast, though they’re a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed to make a dent in the five-year drought that has been ravaging Santa Barbara County and the rest of California.

With shifted winds bringing colder, wetter air from over the ocean, the current storm dropped about a third-inch of rain on the South Coast by Friday afternoon and about half that in the North County. The Gaviota Coast had the most, recorded at 0.58-inch at 4 p.m.

Showers are forecasted to continue on and off the rest of the weekend and total about 1 inch of rainfall. 

There were several weather-related vehicle crashes Friday morning, including cars off the road of Highway 154 and an injury crash near the Gaviota Tunnel.

Though most of the county is far below the normal, or average, amount of rain for this point in the water year, which runs from Sept. 1 until Aug. 31, it’s beating the previous few years’ numbers.

As of Friday, 11.2 inches of rain have fallen in Santa Barbara for water year 2015-2016, which is 66 percent of normal, according to county data. Santa Maria’s 8.6 inches bring it up to 70 percent of normal.

Lompoc is at 83 percent normal with 10.8 inches so far, and Santa Ynez has seen 9.9 inches for 67 percent.

On average, the county has only seen 69 percent of the rainfall it typically should be seeing by early April. At this time last year, however, the number was only 55 percent, and before that, a paltry 41 percent.

The disheartening numbers do nothing to bolster county reservoirs’ falling elevations.

Gibraltar Reservoir, which serves Santa Barbara, is down to 18.1-percent capacity, according to county data. Jameson Reservoir, utilized by Montecito, is at a worse 13.7 percent.

Cachuma Lake, which supplies most of the South Coast’s water, is now at only 14.8 percent capacity, with an elevation of 665 feet.

That’s only 7 feet above the point at which an emergency pumping barge will no longer be functional at its current location.

On March 7, the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board voted to move the barge to a deeper spot before July, when the elevation is expected to hit 658 feet.

“We would need a lot of rain in order to fill Cachuma, and we would need significant rain from a couple of storms to even trigger any inflow into Cachuma at this point,” said Tom Fayram, deputy public works director for the water resources division.

“So these storms aren’t going to do anything to change our water supply outlook — at least for our surface reservoirs.”

The intense El Niño expected to douse the state this winter largely overlooked Southern California and provided little drought relief.

Much of California, including all of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and virtually all of San Luis Obispo County, have been undergoing “exceptional drought” — the worst rating on the United States Drought Monitor’s scale.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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.

Overcast weather and showers are forecast through the weekend for Santa Barbara County. Click to view larger
Overcast weather and showers are forecast through the weekend for Santa Barbara County.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

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