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Thursday, January 24 , 2019, 5:13 am | Fair 42º


Series of Storms Expected to Soak South Coast, Raising Risk of Mudslides

The South Coast is expected to get soaked in a series of winter storms starting Wednesday afternoon.

“You’ve got some rain and you’ve got some more rain,” said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Santa Barbara’s foothills and mountains are likely to get the heaviest rain, with 2 to 4 inches, while the coastal areas should get 1 to 2 inches between Wednesday and Sunday, Seto said. Isolated mountain areas could get up to 6 inches.

The first storm is expected to arrive Wednesday afternoon and last until Thursday morning, with about a half-inch of rain and gusty winds.

Thursday night and Friday may bring much heavier rain, with the possibility of thunderstorms and snowfall above 6,000 feet.

Daytime temperatures in Santa Barbara are expected to be in the low 60s through the weekend, with lows in the 40s and 50s. Nights will be pretty warm and there will be rainy, cool afternoons, according to Seto.

There’s a threat of mudslides and rockslides with the heavy rainfall in such a short period of time, Seto said, adding that it’s been so dry that the moisture won’t soak in very fast, so there will be a lot of runoff.

Santa Barbara hasn’t had more than an inch of rain since Jan. 24, 2013, with 1.48 inches in one day, Seto said. Since July, the area has had only 1.79 inches of rain; the normal amount is 12.62 inches, so the rainfall is needed.

Water districts are working on conservation efforts, buying additional water and, in the case of the Montecito Water District, implementing water rationing.

The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management warned residents living near recent burn areas to stay alert for potential mudslides.

The Los Padres National Forest will be closing some roads for the storms, spokesman Andrew Madsen said.

Divide Peak Road, Pendola Road and River Road at the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area will be closed sometime Wednesday until the storm passes, according to Madsen. Then they just have to wait and see what the storm brings, he said.

Forest Service employees are checking recreation areas to see how many people are out there, to make sure any campers or hikers are aware of the impending storms.

“We’ll make sure we’re not locking anyone in when we close roads,” Madsen said.

They could be vulnerable to mudslides, too, since last year’s White Fire charred almost 2,000 acres of Santa Barbara's backcountry. An investigation determined the fire was started by a cooking fire held in one of the barbecues at the White Rock Day Use area.

The Los Padres National Forest website will be updated with road closures and other condition updates throughout the week, and people can also call the Santa Barbara Ranger District at 805.967.3481.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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.

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