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Lompoc lightning

Lightning fills the sky west of Lompoc on Sunday night.

Len Wood, Staff

As lightning danced across the sky Sunday night, meteorologists and Santa Barbara County emergency management officials were on high alert because of the potential for flooding and other problems that comes with energetic thunderstorms.

National Weather Service officials said while the series of thunderstorms brought a lot of lightning to the area, they did not dump a lot of water.

“It was a very active series of storms in terms of lightning,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Kathy Hoxsie said.

Rain gauges throughout the area registered about a quarter to less than half an inch from Lompoc to Santa Maria.

“We had a spotter call in and say he registered .46 of an inch of rain in Vandenberg Village,” Hoxsie added.

The amount of lightning meteorologists observed was a cause of concern.

“Lightning for us is an indicator of the potential strength of the storm. A big part of what causes lightning is strong up- and downdrafts. It separates the charges, and the atmosphere tries to balance itself by producing lightning,” Hoxsie explained.

Since Sunday night’s storms had a lot of lightning, officials were worried about mudslides and other issues that occur when heavy rains meet recent wildfire areas, like the Alamo fire area along Highway 166 near Twitchell Reservoir and the Whittier fire area near Cachuma Lake.

“Storms we were watching heading to the Alamo burn area made us very nervous. Some of them were producing a lot of lighting,” Hoxsie said.

Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management officials also were concerned and stayed in close contact with weather watchers all night, according to Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

Lewin’s department deployed its alert system to warn county residents about the storms and the potential for flooding problems.

“The weather did come through, but (the storms) moved fast enough that they didn’t cause any flash flood or debris flows that we saw or heard about,” Lewin said.

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Though thankful the storms did not lead to flooding or damage, Lewin urges everyone in the area to register to receive messages from the county’s system.

“Everybody should sign up for alerts on It only takes a minute,” Lewin said.

Hoxsie attributed the cause of the late weekend storms to the changing of the seasons.

“This time of year, end of summer to early fall, we can get some extra moisture in the air. That is what happened,” she said.

Hoxsie said the outlook for the coming week looks uneventful, with temperatures cooling over the next few days and, then, possibly warming up for the weekend. 

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.