Santa Barbara County’s climate is typically warm and dry in the summer and cool and wet in the winter, similar to a Mediterranean-type climate, further bolstering the area’s “American Riviera” nickname. During its 300 days of sunshine a year, Santa Barbara’s daytime temperatures range from the mid-60s to the mid-70s, usually with low humidity, and the inland and mountain areas of the county see daytime temperatures about 15 degrees warmer. Proximity to the Pacific Ocean moderates the climate and temperatures near the coast.
The Pacific High Pressure system is the primary influence on the county’s climate. Adjacent steep mountain ranges paralleling the coast produce an orographic effect — storms approaching the county from the ocean are forced upward against the mountains, resulting in increased precipitation with increased elevation — which can result in flash flooding along the county’s south coast.
Precipitation within the county varies by season and location. Average annual precipitation ranges from 8 inches on the Cuyama Valley to more than 36 inches at the apex of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Occasional intense rainfall coupled with the county’s topography can lead to flooding, but on average, rainfall within the county is moderate. Most rivers, creeks and streams remain dry during the summer months. Snow is common at the highest elevations, more than 6,500 feet about sea level.
Layering clothing will allow you to maintain comfort throughout the county. A sweater may be needed to keep the chill away in the early morning, evening and nights. Daytime temperatures in the seaside areas as well as the valley regions may call for short sleeves. Ocean temperatures average 55 degrees in the winter and 65 degrees in the summer but can reach the mid-70s in the fall. A wetsuit is a good idea for the winter and spring months if you plan to get in the water. In the fall, Santa Anas, or Sundowner winds, may occur where temperatures rise and humidity drops as the winds shift to blow from the hot inland areas toward the Pacific Ocean.
Every second counts in a disaster so planning and preparation can be lifesavers.
Be Prepared California is California’s official emergency preparedness program led by the California Department of Public Health.
Be Prepared California gives residents, communities, public safety professionals, businesses and schools valuable information and resources regarding a variety of emergency scenarios. The website provides information on creating an emergency plan and emergency kit, pet preparedness and disaster preparedness for seniors. For more information about disaster preparedness, visit www.bepreparedcalifornia.ca.gov.
The following are considered significant hazards in Santa Barbara County.
Flash Floods/Coastal Surge
Most areas across the globe experience some form of flooding; areas in Santa Barbara County are within the 100-year floodplain. Flash floods and other flood events occur regularly during rainstorms due to local terrain and hydrology. Coastal storm surges in the county have historically been associated with tropical storms.
A flash flood watch is issued when flash flooding is expected to occur within six hours after heavy rains have ended. A flash flood warning is issued for life- and property-threatening flooding that will occur within six hours. During a flash flood watch or warning, stay tuned to local radio or TV stations or a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio for further weather information.
If you are outdoors during a rainstorm, seek higher ground. Avoid walking through any floodwaters — even water 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. If you are driving, avoid flooded areas. The majority of deaths in a flash flood occur when people drive through flooded areas. Roads concealed by water may not be intact. Water only a foot deep can displace a vehicle. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water can engulf a vehicle and sweep it away.
Several active fault zones pass through Santa Barbara County. It is important to be prepared for an earthquake. Identify potential hazards in your home. Secure top-heavy furniture to a wall. Use earthquake putty on hanging pictures and mirrors. Secure objects on shelves that could become projectiles during an earthquake.
In the case of an earthquake, remember: Drop, cover and hold on. If you are not near a table or desk, drop to the floor against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors and other objects that could fall.
For more information on earthquake preparedness, visit www.earthquakecountry.info.
Some exposure to sunlight is good, even healthy, but too much can be dangerous. Broad-spectrum ultraviolet radiation, listed as a known carcinogen by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, can cause blistering sunburns and long-term problems like skin cancer, cataracts and immune suppression. Overexposure also causes wrinkling and premature aging of the skin.
Cloud cover — which can be sparse in Santa Barbara County — reduces UV levels but not completely. Depending on the thickness of the cloud cover, you can still burn on a cold and dim day. So be prepared with sunglasses, sunscreen, long-sleeved garments, wide-brimmed hats and an umbrella.
Santa Barbara County experiences wildfires on a regular basis in part due to the local vegetation’s conduciveness to wildfires. Even when urban areas are not threatened, the smoke and ash produced can create air quality issues for hundreds of miles. Wildfires are unpredictable and impossible to forecast so preparation is especially important. Find wildfire tips from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department at www.sbcfire.com/firestorms.