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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 9:30 pm | Fair 55º

 
 
 
 

Thunderstorms Put On a Loud and Impressive Light Show in Santa Barbara County

National Weather Service issued several flood warnings and advisories, noting that automated rain gauges were indicating 'moderate to heavy rainfall'

 
Flash Flood Warning map Click to view larger

A heavy band of thunderstorms stretching from Bakersfield across Santa Barbara County and out into the ocean put on an impressive thunder-and-lightning show Tuesday night.

Well over 1,000 cloud-to-surface lightning strikes were recorded in the Santa Barbara-Ventura area between 6 p.m. and midnight, said Curt Kaplan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

During the heaviest period — between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. — there were some 750 strikes, many of them offshore, he added.

No damage was reported from the lightning, but there were numerous power outages.

Overall, rainfall rates remained fairly low through the evening, although ¼ inch was recorded in just 10 minutes in Goleta and Santa Barbara at one point as the thunderstorms were passing through.

The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning Tuesday night, until 10:30 p.m. for communities near the Thomas Fire burn area and a Flood Advisory through 11:30 p.m., oting that automated rain gauges were indicating “moderate to heavy rainfall with embedded thunderstorms” moving over the county.

“One band over top of you right now is giving you one heck of a show,” Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, told Noozhawk at about 8:45 p.m.

Scattered power outages were reported throughout the area, along with numerous vehicle accidents, but no major incidents were reported.

Road closed sign in Montecito. Click to view larger
Evacuations were ordered Tuesday for the Sherpa, Whittier and Thomas Fire burn areas due to the predicted rainfall rates reaching 0.75 inches to 1 inch per hour, which is above the threshold for possible debris flows. The orders were lifted Wednesday morning. (Mike Eliason photo)

Much of the lightning was remaining offshore, Hoxsie said, but the line of thunderstorms was moving towards land.

"For at least the next couple hours, you’re going to be getting rattled," Hoxsie said.

There was a report that the runway lights were knocked out briefly at the Santa Barbara Airport, and that some flights into and out of the airport were being delayed.

The forecast was still calling for the heaviest rainfall beginning late Tuesday night and extending into the early hours Wednesday.

Kaplan said the moderate to heavy rainfall was expected to last until about 4 a.m., then taper off through the morning hours.

As of 11 p.m., the highest rainfall rates were under ⅓ of an inch per hour.

The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Watch for Santa Barbara County burn areas through 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Shortly before midnight, Caltrans reported that the northbound Highway 101 onramps at Padaro Lane, Evans Avenue, Sheffield Drive and San Ysidro Road in the Carpinteria-Montecito area had been closed "due to inclement weather." The ramps were reopened around 5 a.m., Caltrans District 5 spokesman Jim Shivers said. 

Santa Barbara County lifted evacuations for the Whittier Fire, Sherpa Fire and Thomas Fire burn areas at 8 a.m. Wednesday. 

Click here for the latest Santa Barbara area forecast from the National Weather Service. 

Click here for Santa Barbara County real-time rainfall totals. 

Sign up for Aware & Prepare emergency alerts here, or through the ReadySBC.org website.

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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.

Lightning storm seen from Santa Barbara waterfront Click to view larger
Streaks of lightning light up the sky along the Santa Barbara waterfront Tuesday night as an impressive string of thunderstorms moves through the region. (Mike Eliason photo)

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