Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Rainstorm expected to hit Thursday evening


In the wake of a westerly swell that brought thunderous waves to local beaches, weather officials are forecasting a cold Pacific storm will move in Thursday evening with moderate to heavy rainfall.
Steady rain should hit the Santa Barbara area by around 10 a.m. and start to lighten up Friday morning, according to a weather alert issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The front will exit the area Friday afternoon, but there will likely be showers and a slight chance of thunderstorm in the wake of the front, which could still produce locally heavy rainfall rates,” according to the alert. “Due to the potential for high-intensity rainfall with the front and post-frontal convection, a flash flood watch will likely be needed for mud and debris flows near the burn areas.”
To that effect, county officials are readying themselves for the first major test of the Public Works department’s flood control projects completed following the 240,000-acre Zaca Fire.
“It will be our first chance to see how the burned-out watershed areas react to significant rainfall and will give us a chance to measure the success of our work,” Tom Fayram, deputy Public Works director, said in a prepared statement.
County workers installed floating “debris booms” in key areas of Lake Cachuma to catch material, dug a 4,000-foot channel in the Santa Maria River to keep water moving downstream, and built up emergency caches of granite boulders in the event of levee erosion, among other mitigating measures.
Rainfall amounts are expected to range between one to three inches in foothill and mountain regions and between one-half to one inch along coastal locations. Temperatures will dip to the upper-40s during the night and hover in the mid-50s during the day.
There is also a small chance of showers on Saturday and Sunday, most likely in mountain areas. Snow levels will remain around 6,500 feet before dropping close to 5,000 feet by Friday afternoon as cold air sweeps in behind the front.
“People planning trips into the mountains Friday and into the weekend should be prepared for winter weather conditions,” according to the alert. “…The combination of gusty winds and our first significant snowfall of the season will likely require a snow and blowing snow advisory as we draw closer to the event.”
About a foot of snow is expected to fall above 7,000 feet, while locations between 6,000 and 7,000 feet should expect around 3 to 6 inches.

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