Mandatory evacuation orders for all residents of Montecito and those west of Goleta (those living below burn scars) will end at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday evening.
All weather warnings in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have been dropped as of 12:15 p.m. A flash flood watch remains in effect until 5:00 p.m.
Chief Meteorologist Alan Rose said that doesn't mean danger and threats of flooding and mudslides has completely passed. "As the event winds down, the threat for heavy rain will lessen. Still, through tonight we're watching for a chance for additional downpours," Rose said
The Flash Flood Warning for the area from Lake Cachuma to El Capitan was canceled at 11:30 a.m.
No move has been made to cancel mandatory evacuation warnings for any affected area in southern Santa Barbara County.
A Flash Flood Warning was issued Thursday for an area from Lake Cachuma over the mountains and south to the coast at El Capitan, near the Sherpa and Whittier Fire burn areas. A small but powerful band of rain hit the region for a short period of time. First Alert Stormtracker Radar showed the heavier showers mostly dissipated, but the warning will be in effect until 12:30 p.m.
Emergency officials in Santa Barbara County are worried about heavier rainfall on Thursday morning, creating significant risks for flooding and debris flows. The concern comes on the third and final day of a "pineapple express" storm along the central and south coasts.
In a news release sent Thursday morning, rainfall up to and exceeding one inch per hour was forecast, creating dangerous conditions, especially for the communities below recent brush fire burn scars. Thunderstorms are possible, which can bring heavy downpours.
Forecasters expect storm intensity to increase as the day begins Thursday. A Flash Flood Watch remains in effect for all of Santa Barbara County until 5:00 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
"The present wave of this storm is much stronger and more dangerous than what we have experienced over the last 24 hours," said Santa Barbara County Emergency Management Director Rob Lewin. "This is a very serious situation. We all need to stay safe by following the directions of our public safety leavers. Stay out of evacuation areas. Exercise extreme caution when driving," he said.
"We've prepared for the worst, we're hoping for the best," said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown during a live interview on The Morning News.
As the third day of a major rainstorm begins on the Central and South coasts, residents watch closely to see if forecasted heavy rains on Thursday morning would cause havoc in communities already devastated by the Thomas Fire and a January mudslide.
On Thursday morning, officials from the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management put out a statement urging Montecito residents who ignored mandatory evacuation orders on Tuesday to rethink that decision and leave immediately. Officials expect countywide impacts ranging from swollen creeks to traffic impacts.
Rain showers tapered off to light to moderate for much of Wednesday afternoon and overnight, but heavier rain is forecast for Thursday morning.
Heavier rain fell overnight in San Luis Obispo County with no significant impacts. An intersection along Highway 1 in Oceano prone to flooding filled with water Thursday morning due to heavier rainfall.
Santa Barbara customers of Southern California Edison reported power outages around 2:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. A representative from Edison said power lines were turned off from to remove palm tree fronds that fell. The outage started at 1:55 p.m. and all power was restored at 2:04 p.m. affecting about 1,329 customers. At the station's Santa Barbara facility, the power prompted a switch to backup power.
As moderate rain continues to fall, emergency crews are keeping a close eye on areas under burn scars which are most at risk from flooding and debris flows. The rain has also weakened some trees; one fell onto an Audi on Bath Street.
A flood advisory is in effect until 11:00 a.m. near the recent fire burn areas. Rainfall rates are climbing with stronger bands of showers coming onshore.
The California Highway Patrol has closed Highway 1 at Ragged Point near the county line between San Luis Obispo and Monterey due to a slide. CHP does not yet know how long the highway will be closed, however, a long-term closure is just a few miles up the road from a massive landslide several months ago, so this incident should not impact many drivers.
The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The watch will remain in effect throughout Wednesday and into Thursday as a "Pineapple Express" type of rainstorm continues to push in from the Pacific Ocean.
Earlier Wednesday morning, an urban and small stream advisory was issued due to moderate bands of rain falling. That advisory was canceled at 6:30 a.m., but could be restored quickly if and when more moderate rain develops.
A "Pineapple Express" takes warmer, moisture-laden air from over the Hawaiian islands and funnels it toward Southern California. The condition exists when low-pressure systems are in the right place over the Pacific Ocean to move the moist Hawaiian air in a northeasterly direction. The condition ends when the low-pressure system moves further to the East. In the case of this storm, that's expected to happen by the end of the day on Thursday.
Highway 101 remains open, and California Highway Patrol officials plan to keep it open unless conditions such as significant flooding or debris flows make the roadway unsafe to drive. That type of closure could happen with little advanced warning, so drivers are urged to use caution on the roads. As of 7:30 Wednesday morning, a handful of minor accidents were reported on local roadways. Traffic was not impacted.
[3/20/18 Update] - Moderate rain continues to fall across Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. The National Weather Service issued an urban and small stream until Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. due to moderate bans of rainfall coming onshore. The advisory is issued when the weather service detects rain rates above .25 inches per hour.
Moderate rain showers are expected through the remainder of the day and overnight into Thursday.