Santa Barbara County and the rest of California are now considered “abnormally dry” by the U.S. Drought Monitor because there has been no rainfall since the beginning of October, according to the National Weather Service.
Locally, the county has 0 percent of its countywide normal-to-date rainfall, and the region is still recovering from the drought.
Water districts have mostly eliminated restrictions on water use, but emphasize the need for conservation, since groundwater basins and other supplies aren’t all back to pre-drought levels yet.
Costs of the drought aren’t over yet, either; South Coast agencies purchased supplemental water during drought years and for most of those deals, payback includes water in addition to money.
The seven-year period of 2012-2018 was the second-driest on record, after the 1945-1951 drought, according to Public Works Department records.
The Lake Cachuma Bradbury Dam rainfall monitoring station recorded 26.67 inches of rain for the 2018-19 water year.
Rainfall records going back to 1952 show the highest-average-rainfall months over time, at that station and many others, are February, January, March, November, and April.
Lake Cachuma, the major reservoir for the South Coast, was 72.7-percent full as of Monday.
Dry, warm weather into autumn is not unusual locally, and several of the county’s major wildfires started in the fall, including the 2009 Tea Fire, which started in November, and the 2017 Thomas Fire, which began in early December.
Los Padres National Forest spokeswoman Jennifer Gray said this week that Extreme Fire Danger restrictions are now in effect through Dec. 31, with wood and charcoal fires prohibited in all forest areas, including campfire use sites like campgrounds and day use areas.
Local weather has temperatures forecast in the 80s for the weekend, and the city of Santa Barbara could break a daily heat record on Sunday, with a forecasted high of 85 compared to the 84-degree mark recorded in 2008.
Other Southern California regions also are getting a weekend of potentially heat-record-breaking weather in the high 80s and low 90s.
The Santa Maria and Lompoc valleys have a High Surf Advisory through Sunday morning, and the National Weather Service warns beachgoers of the risks of rip currents and large, breaking waves.
— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) November 14, 2019