Officials expect rainy conditions to continue today
Wednesday’s storm system dropped snow and ice on State Route 154, leading to extended road closures as Caltrans officials cleared an eight-car pile-up near Cold Springs Bridge.
Officials from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department responded to the multi-car pile-up around 11 a.m. Wednesday as icy conditions caused vehicles to slide off the road and into other vehicles. The 154 was closed by Caltrans until around 1:25 p.m.
After a period of steady rainfall in the early morning hours Wednesday, roadways remained wet during the morning commute.
A fatal crash occurred around 6:45 a.m. on the Highway 101 just north of the State Route 1 interchange. A 21-year-old Guadalupe woman, whose identity was withheld, was traveling south on the 101 when, for unknown reasons, she allowed her vehicle to travel to the right off the roadway. The vehicle traveled onto the dirt shoulder, down an embankment and crashed into a tree, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Weather conditions were cloudy and wet at the time of the crash, and it was not actively raining, the CHP said.
The cause of the collision is under investigation, and alcohol does not appear to be a factor, authorities said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Officer Schmidt at the Buellton-area CHP office at 805-681-5551.
Rainy weather is here to stay in Santa Barbara County as the remnants of Wednesday’s storm system move out of the area today, leaving traces of scattered showers and a chance of thunderstorms through this evening.
Today’s showers and possible thunderstorms are expected to drop less than half an inch of rain across the county, which would bring total storm system accumulations to about an inch, Joe Sirard, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, told the News-Press.
Steady rain showers covered Santa Barbara County starting Tuesday night through early Wednesday morning. Scattered showers continued throughout the rest of the day in the county accompanied by periods of sunshine.
Wednesday’s showers brought 0.75 inches of rain in Goleta, 0.76 inches in Montecito, 0.94 inches in Santa Barbara and 0.74 inches in Santa Maria, according to data from the county’s Public Works Department. Other notable totals included 1.29 inches of rainfall at the San Marcos Pass and 1.11 inches at Gibraltar Reservoir.
Looking ahead, the forecast calls for dry conditions in Santa Barbara County starting Friday, with cooler temperatures reaching the mid-60s through the weekend.
A winter storm warning is still in effect for Santa Barbara County mountain ranges through this evening at 10 p.m. Weather service officials expect to see accumulations of six to 12 inches of snow at elevations above 4,500 feet, while elevations over 3,000 feet will likely experience up to an inch of snow, Mr. Sirard said.
Weather officials say the Central Coast has had a “very dry” wet season this year in comparison to past years, which could have an impact on the arrival of this year’s fire season.
Between Oct. 1 and March 9, Santa Barbara County’s climate station at the Santa Barbara Airport recorded 6.14 inches of seasonal rain, which is down from an average of 13.86 inches of seasonal rain in past years. This more than 7-inch rain deficit will likely limit new vegetation growth if conditions remain dry and could create “fuel” for fire season, Mr. Sirard said.
“If we continue to be very dry through the spring, the live fuel should dry out pretty quickly,” Mr. Sirard said. “It will be a below average amount of green-up, so it could potentially be an early fire season.”
With less rainfall on the Central Coast this year, Mr. Sirard said Santa Barbara County residents should conserve water whenever possible.
“We should always conserve water because we have a dry climate here,” Mr. Sirard said. “I would really encourage people to avoid wasting water.”