Following a one-day reprieve from the rain, a series of moderate to heavy storms beginning Friday night and continuing into next week are expected to drench the region in several inches of rainfall.
“We could see the strongest storm of the season during the next week,” said Kristen Stewart, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “It’s too early to give a really good estimate, but right now we’re looking at 3 to 6 inches over the next seven days, but that can change over the next few days.”
Stewart said Friday night’s storm — which will be accompanied by gusts of wind up to 25 mph — is expected to bring 1 to 2 inches of rain.
“We could see even more rain in the higher elevation areas, especially near the south-facing mountain slopes,” she said, adding that the majority of the rainfall would arrive between 6 p.m. and early Saturday morning.
As of Friday morning — according to the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District — Santa Maria this year has received around 82 percent of its normal rainfall to date, just slightly above the normal precipitation to date for the county, which is at 81 percent.
Since Sept. 1, the start of the county’s water year, Santa Maria has received 4.19 inches of rain.
Stewart said to expect storms to continue through Thursday, but said it was unclear which day would bring the heaviest amount of precipitation.
“We’re going to see more rain than not rain,” she said. “There isn’t much of a break from the showers.”
On Thursday night, Santa Barbara County issued an advisory message, warning residents that Friday’s storm would produce periods of heavy downpours and peak rainfall rates of 0.5 to 0.75 inches per hour.
“This is below the threshold for debris flows in and near recent burn areas, however thunderstorm activity could produce rainfall rates that exceed debris flow thresholds,” the advisory stated, adding that residents should remain alert about changing conditions.
County officials said a storm scheduled to arrive sometime between late Sunday night and early Monday morning may require people located near recent burn areas that are at risk of debris flows to evacuate before its arrival.
Mark van de Kamp, a spokesman for the city of Santa Maria, said residents should check their roofs and the downspouts to make sure they are clear, make sure doors and windows close well and have basic food supplies at home.
“It’s a good idea to have basic provisions so you don’t necessarily to have to drive to the store to get milk, eggs or other items,” he said. “If you can save yourself a trip in the storm, you’re safer.”
For residents who do need to drive, van de Kamp said it was important to drive at a reduced speed, keep a larger than normal distance between vehicles and allow more time to reach one’s destination.
Van de Kamp said the consecutive days of rain could cause the ground to become muddy, putting weaker trees at risk of toppling or losing branches.
“The city is going to be doing its part to be proactive,” he said. “We’ll go out and monitor the situation as we’ve been doing. We’ve gone out to clear the gutters and drains. We’ll have staff on call if they need to come in to deal with downed trees, any debris or localized street flooding.”
Temperatures across the Santa Maria Valley are expected to remain moderate throughout most of next week, with a high of 61 degrees from Saturday through Tuesday, 63 on Wednesday and 62 on Thursday. Forecast lows are 46 on Saturday and around 50 degrees from Sunday through Wednesday.