Storm and Fire Shocks Santa Barbara 


Staff Writer

Lightning strikes in Santa Barbara. Image courtesy of Jonah Askew

Monday night, October 4, a storm rocked the rolling hills of Santa Barbara with dramatic thunder and lightning accompanied by heavy rain and wind upwards of 15 miles per hour. The storm originated off the northeastern part of Santa Barbara Island at around 6:30 p.m. and reached the southern coast at around 7:30 p.m. The storm passed through much of Southern California, striking areas such as Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties, leaving many houses without power. The National Weather Service of San Diego reported over 2,000 lightning strikes over the Los Angeles-Orange County area, which reportedly caused several palm trees to catch fire, garnering emergency services to be dispatched. 

In the San Marcos Pass area, lightning and thunder shook the homes of San Vicente Mobile Home Park for over an hour, leaving many homes at a loss of power for several hours. After the storm, rain pummeled the area for another hour, which was reportedly the most surprising part. 

“You just don’t get rain here,” says Tony Askew, a resident in the San Marcos Pass area. “It’s almost unheard of.” 

Post-storm, houses all around the Santa Barbara area were without power for several hours, rendering many students unable to do homework or watch TV. Several staff members of the San Marcos King’s Page reported that their power was out for upwards of three hours. Around 20 counties had their power turned off by PG & E in order to prevent any fires from possible power line collapses, and about 21,000 homes had their power taken out by natural causes. 

Airplane dumps Phos-Chek, pink fire retardant on the Santa Barbara Coastal Ranges. Image courtesy of Mike Aliasen on Twitter

Almost days after the storm, a fire started in the Alisal Lake and Santa Ynez area, which has now grown to around 15,000 acres, according to CBS Los Angeles. The high speed winds from the storm earlier in the week caused the fire along with a lack of air support from emergency services due to the 40-50 mile an hour winds. The winds plus the dry landscape of Alisal Canyon have stimulated the flames out of control.

Forest fires are usually treated using large tanker planes that fill with water, yet Santa Barbara airport was not letting planes leave to fight the fire out of fear that the planes would be affected by the heavy winds. Without the BAe-146 air tankers, the fire was able to rage without much resistance. On Tuesday afternoon, two planes were finally able to embark to the fire to aid the 1,400 firefighters that were dispatched.

Trees burned along the 101 Freeway from the Alisal Fire. Image courtesy of Mike Aliasen on Twitter

Smoke from the fire has plagued the sky since Tuesday, causing many San Marcos sports to be cancelled out of health concern for the athletes. Smoke clouding the sky covers the sun and leaves the scent of burnt brush and chaparral behind. If anyone is being directly affected by the fire, Dos Pueblos High School is serving as a Salvation Army headquarters for anyone seeking refuge. 

As of October 20th the fire was 97% contained with more than 17,000 acres burned.