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Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County rising fast after potent winter storm

Not long after nearly running dry, Lake Cachuma has risen 25 feet in the last two days as a result of Friday’s powerful storm. Santa Barbara County water officials expect the lake to exceed 50 percent of capacity, even without any additional rainfall.
Not long after nearly running dry, Lake Cachuma has risen 25 feet in the last two days as a result of Friday’s powerful storm. Santa Barbara County water officials expect the lake to exceed 50 percent of capacity, even without any additional rainfall. Noozhawk.com

The potent winter storm that dumped copious amounts of rain on Santa Barbara County on Friday has provided a huge boost to the area’s water supplies.

Most notably, Lake Cachuma had risen about 25 feet between midnight Thursday and Saturday afternoon, swelled by heavy flows from the Santa Ynez River as well as the many smaller creeks in the watershed.

And there’s much more to come.

Santa Barbara County officials are estimating that, without additional rainfall, the reservoir will continue to rise over the next couple weeks, according to Jon Frye, engineering manager for the county Flood Control & Water Conservation District.

“Conservatively, we think it will come up another 15 to 20 feet,” Frye told Noozhawk at midday Saturday.

At the higher end of that range, Cachuma would be just over 50 percent full — a far cry from its status on Jan. 1, when it was just over 8 percent full.

Flows out of Gibraltar Reservoir, which is full and spilling upstream on the Santa Ynez River, peaked at 9,720 cubic feet per second at 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

During Friday’s storm, which dumped more than 9 inches of rain on some mountain locations, the flow into Cachuma peaked at 25,000 cfs, according to Frye.

A rise of 20 feet more in Cachuma’s lake level would still put the reservoir about 35 feet below the point at which it would spill.

Another storm is forecast to roll ashore on the Central Coast on Sunday night and Monday, with a continuing chance of showers into Wednesday.

For the first time in nearly six years, Santa Margarita Lake is full and spilling over into the Salinas River. Mark Hutchinson, deputy director of SLO County Public Works, talks on Feb. 8, 2017, about the role of the lake, also known as the Salina

The creek was raging in its banks on Saturday, February 18, 2017, through downtown San Luis Obispo and was spilling over the roadway on San Luis Bay Drive.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at tbolton@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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