Rain pummels the Central Coast as storm series moves through region

Windy, rainy morning in Cayucos

The weather in Cayucos was stormy Sunday morning, January, 22, 2017.
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The weather in Cayucos was stormy Sunday morning, January, 22, 2017.

After a one-day break, rain again pounded the Central Coast on Wednesday, triggering warnings and advisories and causing multiple ocean rescues in Santa Barbara County.

The National Weather Service issued a high surf warning and a coastal flood advisory, effective from about midnight on Wednesday through 8 p.m.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, Matt Ashton, the chief Harbor Patrol officer at the Port San Luis Harbor District, said they “haven’t seen any significant issues yet.”

Ashton said officials are watching for another advisory, expected to come in from Sunday through Wednesday.

“As far as any damage, we haven’t seen anything too bad,” Ashton said.

“More people seem to be staying back, from what I’ve seen,” Morro Bay Harbor Patrol officer Dana Stein said.

However, further south, there were multiple ocean rescues in Isla Vista and Goleta, according to Noozhawk.

By early Wednesday afternoon, the big winners in terms of rainfall were Rocky Butte, with nearly 2 inches of rain, and Cambria with nine-tenths of an inch, according to PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey.

“We’re definitely on track to having above-average rainfall in January and I think with the next storms coming in, we’ll definitely be above that,” Lindsey said.

So far this rainy season, November has been the wettest month, with December falling below average, Lindsey said.

For example, Cal Poly saw 5.03 inches of rain in November, 1.2 inches of rain in December and 2.5 inches so far in January. On average, Cal Poly usually receives 2.14 inches of rain in November, 4.01 inches in December and 4.96 inches in January, Lindsey said.

“At Cal Poly, they’ve already had about half their average rainfall for the month of January and we’re only a third of the way done with the month,” Lindsey said.

Thursday is expected to be dry, but “moderate to heavy” rain is forecast from Friday afternoon into Saturday morning, Lindsey said. Total rainfall amounts for that system are expected to range between 0.75 and 1.25 inches, before another break in the rain on Saturday afternoon.

But the Central Coast hasn’t yet seen the worst of the rain. That’s expected from late Monday into Tuesday, Lindsey said, and heavy rain is also forecast for Wednesday.

If the forecast models verify, the area may see between 3 to 6 inches of rain through next Thursday.

And the region may also see some coastal flooding next week, due to the combination of warmer-than-average sea temperatures, the impending super blood moon eclipse and “probably the highest tides of the year,” Lindsey said.

Longer-range forecast models are showing a potential break in the rain again during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Despite the warmer sea temperatures — the average temperature for this time of year is about 55.8 degrees and it’s currently close to 59 degrees — a predicted El Niño event hasn’t yet materialized.

“The water temperatures are definitely in El Niño territory, but the atmosphere hasn’t responded yet,” Lindsey said.

There’s still a 90 percent chance El Niño will form this winter, but even if it doesn’t, it doesn’t mean the Central Coast won’t see a rainy winter, Lindsey said.

“It does help, but we’ve had wet years where it was the opposite,” Lindsey said.

Earlier in the rainy season, Lindsey and others predicted that the Central Coast would see about 110 percent of its average rainfall.

“So far, that’s verifying pretty well,” Lindsey said. “There’s no reason to think we won’t continue to have that rain.”

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Gabby Ferreira is a breaking news and general assignment reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. A native of Houston, Texas, she was a reporter in Tucson, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Palm Springs, California, before moving to San Luis Obispo County in 2016.