Northern Santa Barbara County receives minimal damage in storms

Photo courtesy of Mark van de Kamp
STORM DAMAGE: While damages during this year’s atmospheric river was minor in comparison to the 2023 winter storms, several cities, including Santa Maria, experienced downed trees, road closures, and other damages due to the heavy rain and high winds.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara, SLO, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties, among others, after an atmospheric river slowly made its way through the California. 

Storms began on Jan. 31. As of Feb. 6, parts of Santa Barbara County had received between 1 and 15 inches of rain total in the last seven days, according to Santa Barbara County Public Works Department’s real-time rainfall, river-stream, and reservoir data

“The storm underperformed in the North County according to what was forecast,” Public Works Public Information Officer Lael Wageneck told the Sun via email on Feb. 6. “In the past 48 hours, we had 2.2 inches of rain in Guadalupe and 1.3 inches in Santa Maria. Most of the rain was focused in the South County, and Ventura and Los Angeles counties.”

Cachuma, Jameson, and Gibraltar reservoirs’ capacities were at 98.2 percent, 100.9 percent, and 101.6 percent, respectively, as of Feb. 6, according to county Public Works Rainfall and Reservoir Summary

John Dumas, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, told the Sun that rain was expected to continue through Feb. 7, and county residents could expect an additional half-inch to an inch of rain during that time. 

“It should be pretty much out of the area by tomorrow,” Dumas said on Feb. 6. “Starting tomorrow afternoon in Santa Barbara County, we will get one more little impulse coming through, but by Friday [Feb. 9] we should be out of the rain at least through the weekend.” 

During the storms, high wind gusts and rain in Santa Maria caused power outages and more than 75 reports of downed trees or large branches—with some falling onto roads, vehicles, or other structures, Santa Maria Public Information Officer Mark van de Kamp said in a statement. 

“On the city’s west side, Black Road remains closed between Main Street (Highway 166) and Betteravia Road, due to flooding. Stowell Road from Hanson to Black Road is still closed, but trucks can still go to the agricultural coolers there,” van de Kamp said on Feb. 6. 

Preisker Park was closed but was predicted to reopen on Feb. 7 following the removal of a large eucalyptus tree that fell onto the park roadway and a safety inspection by the Recreation and Parks Department. 

“Trees and limbs went down across the community,” van de Kamp said. “City crews from multiple departments (along with the city’s tree maintenance contractor) worked in unison to prioritize safety by ensuring all reported tree issues were inspected as soon as practicable so that any necessary removals could be accomplished to ensure roadway and sidewalk access.” 

Lompoc experienced no major damage or flooding from the storms, Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne told the Sun. 

“Our Urban Forestry and Streets divisions spent Monday [Feb. 5] working to clear all the downed trees and branches,” Osborne said. “[The] city electric division restored power quickly over the weekend during several outages inside the city limits.” 

In Guadalupe, the $8 million debris and sediment removal project and sand berm held the Santa Maria River in its channel, keeping Pioneer Street residents—who experienced flooding, damages, and relocation during last year’s storms—safe, Guadalupe Mayor Ariston Julian told the Sun. 

Throughout the previous couple of weeks, Guadalupe created community emergency response teams in order to deploy individuals who are able to mobilize locally in the events of extreme weather or other emergencies. The city also received state funding to purchase disaster resource supplies, including cots, sandbags, and other items to help with potential flooding, he added

“There was a lot of water, so again we were concerned about the river, but it stayed in its banks. We’re lucky the county put together some money to be able to do that,” Julian said. “It alleviated some of the worry; nobody was displaced. We’re happy about that.” 

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