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First big winter storm rips up dining area, floods streets and drops hail on the Central Coast

Winter storm damage - Restaurant
John Palminteri
Wind and rain toss around a restaurant's outside awning along the Santa Barbara waterfront. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Winter storm hail
John Palminteri
The first winter storm dropped hail on the Santa Barbara upper downtown area. (Photo: John Palminteri)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The fierce hail storm that hit Sunday night along the Santa Barbara County coastline marked the sharp break in a very dry December.

By morning more than 1.5 inches of rain had fallen on San Marcos Pass. At the end of Monday, it was over three inches.

Rain was loaded with pockets of hail hitting around 10 p.m. Sunday night, pounding on rooftops and decks throughout downtown.

Some of it collected like snow on Chapala Street near Los Olivos St. a few blocks up from Mission. It did not immediately melt off causing morning drivers to make a double take.

The quantity was enough to make snowballs. Some residents walking their dogs said they had never seen anything like it on the surface streets in the city, that stuck around so long.

The surging overnight rain sent debris into storm drains. Some clogged and water gushed over the curb and into businesses. On De la Vina at Mission the Happy Laundry was impacted with dirt and muddy water that got through the doors.

By morning the drain was open but signs warning of flooding were still in place.

On Helena St. by the waterfront and Funk Zone, a large white awning to cover the dining area was lifted by the storm and twisted up. It landed a half a block away. Part of the aluminum structure broke a window at the Beach House surf and swim wear business.

A local resident names Hoop was there about 2 a.m. and said that's when things started shifting.


"Sounded like a crashing,  like a trash can rolling down the street that's what it sounded like," he said.

After several hours, and the structure blocking Helena St. employees next door said they had to keep it from flying off again. "At one point when the rain first started back up again, it started flying up in the air almost as high as the building so we got out here  and started cutting it with the razor blade and trying to keep it from  blowing around anymore," said employee Keegan  Kujawa.

The parklets on State Street in the new promenade held up well with no serious flooding.

City officials say there was minor flooding in Santa Barbara. Public works crews have been responding to several calls for service.

Downtown shoppers were lean, in part because of the Covid-19 rules. Barbara Martinez was walking and shopped and said the hail was a big surprise to her. "It was hailing yea,  all of a sudden. I just didn't know what was going on but I love the rain so it was very  comforting."

A few blocks away Walt  Prado said he heard about the rain and hail in Ventura. "My Godson lives in (Ventura)  foothill area where the fire was  and he sent me a video of snow and hail there."

Many of the parklets in downtown were designed with bad weather in mind. Some were raised up so the water will go   underneath and not over the top as it goes down State Street.

The San Ysidro creek in Montecito came alive after being quiet since the spring.      This storm barely started a runoff. That usually comes after a few inches of rain and a lot of mountain saturation.

 It was about the same with Sycamore creek on the Santa Barbara eastside which drains to east beach. I was flowing but not with any capacity of significant volume.

In Northern Santa Barbara County there was a minor landslide on the Harris Grade. A vehicle accident was also reported in the same area.

Flooding was also reported in the area of Donovan and Broadway.

Lifestyle / Outdoors / Safety / Santa Barbara - South County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and NewsChannel 12. To learn more about John, click here.

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