Updated at 7 p.m. March 21:
The National Weather Service is expecting higher intensity rainfall later in the evening of March 21 and in the early morning hours of March 22 on the Central Coast.
Predicted rainfall rates of a half-inch per hour were slightly overestimated with March 21 rates reaching around one third of an inch per hour.
“With the debris basins empty, the creek channels are doing their job to carry significant amounts of rock and debris,” Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management. “We are referring to this moment as “’half-time”’ for this storm because the area is seeing a slight lull, but we have to be ready for the next, much stronger part of this storm.”
The NWS added that lightning strikes have been observed offshore, which can be an indicator of intense, brief rainfall rates. Foothills and mountains might see rainfall rates of up to half an inch to three quarters of an inch per hour, which meets and exceeds the threshold for triggering debris flows.
One Central Coast resident has been pronounced dead after her car was found in the wake of a collision with a tree on Highway 41 between Morro Bay and Atascadero. The wet roads are believed to have played a major role in the accident. The identity of the victim has not yet been disclosed.
The Ventura County Office of Education has confirmed that multiple public schools and districts will be closed, as a precautionary measure, on March 22 due to the potential for debris flows, road closures and flooding.
The schools and districts include:
-Santa Paula Unified School District
-Ventura High School, DATA Middle School and Loma Vista Elementary School
-Ojai Unified School District
-Mupu Elementary School District
-Briggs Elementary School District
-VCOE special education classrooms at Ventura High School
-VCOE Ojai TEAMS site at Nordhoff High School
-Ventura Charter School
Any additional update will be posted on www.vcoe.org.
Posted on March 21, at 11 a.m.:
More than an inch of rainfall has already hit parts of the Central Coast and the totals are expected to rise to four to seven inches before the storm ends March 23.
The potential for debris flows and heavy flooding remains as rainfall rates in southern Santa Barbara County could reach a half-inch per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
Highway 101 was still open as of 11 a.m. on March 21 but the California Highway Patrol reported an 18-wheeler collision on the freeway at Garden Street in Santa Barbara with at least one other vehicle involved. Many other minor crashes have been reported across the Tri-Counties.
Highway 33 between Lockwood Valley and Fairview Road above Ojai has been closed due to heavy flooding. Highway 1 in Oceano has also been closed due to severe flooding.
Flash flood watches, issued by the National Weather Service, are still in effect and will remain in effect through March 22 or later. About 30,000 people have been evacuated from Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
Residents in both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties are working to protect their homes and businesses from flooding and potential debris flows with sand bags and flood blockers.
“This is going to be the strongest storm we have seen so far this season,” said Mark Jackson of the National Weather Service. “We expect four to seven inches of rainfall by the time Friday morning is here. Remember, it is not the amount of rain that falls. It is whether or not it starts falling fast enough to cause debris to loosen.”
Jackson said the unusual amount of moisture has been brought on by an atmospheric river over the Pacific Ocean known as a Pineapple Express.
For live updates and maps of evacuation areas, visit ReadySBC.org.
For help with large animal evacuation, call (805) 681-4332.
• Contact Robert Shutt at [email protected]