Santa Barbara County is expected to see considerable wet weather later this week, kicking off what could be an impressive El Niño winter weather season.

Dry conditions are forecast during the day on Tuesday, with winds 20 to 40 mph, as well as low humidity, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Lisa Phillips.

Showers could begin Tuesday night, with better chances on Wednesday continuing into Saturday, Phillips said.

Most county areas can expect light to moderate rainfall, she added, with totals in the 1-3 inch range, and possibly higher amounts along south-facing slopes.

Rainfall rates will likely be light — a tenth to a quarter of an inch per hour. 

“We are expecting rain — the chances of having a lot of flooding are on the low end,” Phillips told Noozhawk. “We’re expecting it to mainly be a beneficial rain.”

There could be some isolated urban flooding possible, she said, and isolated downed trees and power lines due to stronger winds coming with the storm.

Daytime highs should be in the upper-60s on Tuesday, dropping to the upper-50s on Thursday, before gradually warming into the weekend.

Overnight lows should be around 50.

Looking ahead into the winter season, Phillips said climate prediction forecasts show an equal chance of above-normal and below-normal precipitation for the three-month period of November, December, and January.

“We are supposed to be in a strong El Niño,” Phillips said. “But strong El Niños aren’t a guarantee for more rain.”

While many people think an El Niño means there will be more rain, that is not necessarily the case.

According to the National Weather Service, “El Niño is a natural climate phenomenon marked by warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator.”

Some possible impacts caused by El Niño events include “wetter-than-average conditions from southern California to along the Gulf Coast, and drier-than-average conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley.”

“A single El Niño event will not result in all of these impacts, but El Niño increases the odds of them occurring,” the National Weather Service said.

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