A rainy and windy storm soaked the Central Coast on Tuesday, but the region dodged significant damage, including in the Montecito burn areas.
However, more wet and potentially dangerous weather is on the way.
Northern coastal San Luis Obispo County was hardest hit in this wave. From Monday through about 5 p.m. Tuesday, Rocky Butte had recorded 2.36 inches of rain, Cambria had received 1.32 inches of rain, Los Osos had recorded 1.04 inches, and Cal Poly had recorded 0.68 inches of rain, according to PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey.
South San Luis Obispo County saw less-than-expected totals, however; Branch Elementary School in Arroyo Grande recorded 0.19 inches of rain, and Nipomo saw 0.36 inches, while Santa Maria recorded 0.28 inches and Vandenberg AFB recorded 0.55 inches of rain.
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Rainfall totals for all of San Luis Obispo County Tuesday were expected to range between 1 and 1.5 inches, with levels reaching up to about 2 inches in some places, Lindsey said.
Tuesday’s weather was also notable for its gusty winds — at about midday, Diablo Canyon recorded winds at 47.2 mph and gusts up to 55.9 mph, Lindsey said.
The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the area, in effect until 7 p.m. Tuesday, cautioning that winds could reach 20 to 30 mph and gust to 45 mph Tuesday afternoon, before tapering off Tuesday evening.
The rain — and the storms forecast for later in the week — caused Santa Barbara County officials to issue an evacuation order for residents below the Thomas Fire and Sherpa/Whittier Fire burn areas, effective at 10 a.m. Tuesday. That order was lifted at about 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Spokeswomen for Santa Barbara County’s Sheriff’s Office and Office of Emergency Management said that no injuries or other significant weather-related incidents had been reported throughout the day.
In addition to the same wind advisory SLO County received, Santa Barbara County was also under a flash flood watch for its wildfire burn areas, according to the National Weather Service. The flash flood watch was in effect until 9 p.m. Tuesday.
“Peak rainfall rates of 0.75 to 1.25 inches are possible in the watch area,” the agency said in its announcement. “Rainfall of this intensity can produce dangerous mud and debris flows in and near recent burn areas.”
“There’s pretty heavy rain falling now in the Hollister Ranch, Gaviota, Santa Barbara areas,” Lindsey said at about 1 p.m. Tuesday. “It was really prudent to do those evacuations.”
Lindsey said there’s a chance of thunderstorms through Tuesday night, but as of early Tuesday afternoon he didn’t see any lightning on the radar. He said he did see some lightning Tuesday morning out at sea, but that it dissipated.
A high surf advisory is in effect for SLO and Santa Barbara counties until 8 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
Wednesday’s rainfall amounts look similar to Tuesday’s, Lindsey said.
However, the rain is forecast to become really heavy from Wednesday night into Thursday morning — 3 to 6 inches of rain is expected from late Wednesday into Thursday afternoon, with higher amounts around Big Sur and Point Conception, Lindsey said.
“There’s going to be a lot more rain, a lot more wind and also the waves are going to be really big on Thursday,” Lindsey said.
A high swell will move into the area Thursday morning and will peak around midday, with heights at about 15 to 17 feet and an 18- to 20-second period expected, Lindsey said.
“It’s a very powerful swell,” he said, emphasizing that no one should turn their back on the ocean during those conditions.
If the conditions for Thursday’s storm verify, “it’ll be the strongest storm of the season,” Lindsey said.
“It’s got wind, rain, swell — the only thing it doesn’t have is low-level snow,” Lindsey said. Snow levels are expected to stay above 5,000 feet.
Looking toward the weekend, Friday should be clear, and Lindsey said the Central Coast is expected to see partly cloudy skies on Jan. 20, during the super wolf blood moon.