Big storm expected to lash SLO County on Friday

betling@thetribunenews.comFebruary 26, 2014 

A major storm is expected to hit Central California on Friday, bringing high winds and “significant rainfall,” according to the National Weather Service.

Coming in after a smaller storm passing through Wednesday and after a lull Thursday, the second storm will be larger and possibly include thunderstorms generating “brief intense rainfall and small hail,” the weather service said.

“San Luis Obispo County hasn’t seen southeasterly winds of this strength in years,” said John Lindsey, PG&E meteorologist. “These winds could break tree limbs and cause power outages.”

Lindsey predicts winds will range from 32 to 46 mph along the coast with gusts to 55 mph. Heavy rain will start Friday morning and continue through Saturday morning, he forecasts.

Lindsey expects rainfall totals from the second system will range from 1.5 to 3 inches in lower elevations but could be up to 5 inches in southwesterly facing mountains. The weather service forecast is higher, calling for totals of up to 8 inches on south-facing slopes.

Lindsey suggests people be sure they have battery-operated flashlights and radios ready, as well as a phone that doesn’t need to be plugged into an electrical outlet, as most cordless and answering machine units do.

In the event of a power outage, it would be good to have plastic containers filled with ice on hand to keep refrigerator items from spoiling, Lindsey added, and all downed power lines should be avoided.

The county Office of Emergency Services also is “urging residents, businesses and others to prepare ahead of time for the predicted storms,” suggesting checks of roof drains to make sure they’re clear and offering a list of sandbag locations at its website, www.slocounty.ca.gov/oes.

Emergency responders may be busy and “have to prioritize responding to emergencies,” county emergency services Manager Ron Alsop warned in a written statement.

“We have not been through such a storm in so long that many people may not recall how dangerous significant weather can be,” Alsop wrote.

“We’re gearing up for the potential of what’s forecast as really strong wind accompanied by a fair amount of rain,” Cambria Fire Chief Mark Miller said.

Cambria, which has received just over 4 inches of rain since July 1 and is the only community in the county to declare a Stage 3 water emergency, needs a total of at least 10 inches to recharge its shallow aquifers, according to the Cambria Community Services District.

Cambria last recorded 2 inches of rain in one day on March 20, 2011, when the districts rain gauge measure 2.11 inches.

“We do need the rain,” Miller said, “but we’re hoping it comes straight down, not sideways. We don’t need the wind.”

Reporter Kathe Tanner contributed to this report.

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