Santa Barbara’s first storm of 2019 is expected to hit this weekend and a few more could be in store the following week. While the cold front of a system centered around northern California is almost certainly predicted to deliver steady showers to all of southern California on Saturday, the National Weather Service in Oxnard projects a 40% chance for an another storm on January 9, the anniversary of last year’s disaster in Montecito. Meteorologist Carol Smith said some weather forecasting models predict another storm on January 12, though it’s too early to know the magnitude of either potential post-Saturday storm.
According to AccuWeather meteorologist Carl Erickson, Santa Barbara will receive between a half and three quarter inches of rain on Saturday before the storm dies down Sunday morning. National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet predicted the storm could deliver up to a full inch.
Mr. Erickson predicted that Saturday’s storm will fall in mostly uniform amounts across Santa Barbara, though the foothills could possibly experience orographic lifting and receive amounts closer to his higher, three-quarter inch prediction. If Mr. Erickson’s forecast for the storm’s intensity hold’s true, there’s no chance of a repeat of the Jan 9. debris flow just before the disaster’s one-year anniversary. He predicted that Saturday’s storm will fall at a rate of .2 inches per hour, far less than the current debris flow threshold of .8 inches per hour.
Nevertheless, all of Santa Barbara’s basins have been cleared of debris since late November’s rainstorm, which according to Santa Barbara County public information officer Gina DePinto deposited nearly 3,100 cubic yards of material into the Cold Springs and San Ysidro Creek debris basins. Ordinarily, basins would be cleared once filled up to 25 percent, but during the three to five post-Thomas Fire years, they must be cleared when deposited with any amount of debris to prepare for the next storm.
“We’re always in anticipation of post-fire debris flows,” Ms. DePinto said.
In the days leading up to Saturday’s rain Santa Barbara will experience gradually increasing humidity. According to Mr. Erickson, Thursday afternoon’s humidity between 35 and 45 percent will increase to somewhere between 50 and 60 percent humidity by Friday afternoon. Saturday will have humidity between 60 and 70 percent, which will grow to between 80 and 100 percent humidity later that night.
This increase in humidity will also be felt in other nearby counties, some of which may find it particularly useful. While neighboring Ventura County as well as Los Angeles County have recently experienced elevated fire alerts due to low humidity and Santa Ana winds, National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet told the News-Press that the time of heightened risk has now passed.
“We’re really beyond the threat at this point,” he said.