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A new winter storm poised moving over the Central Coast will bring wind and rain back to the region, with forecasters saying the storm will not trigger debris flows in Santa Barbara County's recent burn areas.

Light showers and sprinkles were predicted Tuesday afternoon, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Kathy Hoxsie, but the bulk of the rain was expected Tuesday night through early Wednesday. Winds were expected to register between 20 and 30 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph possible in areas near Pt. Conception and Pt. Sal.

"It's not very unusual in early season storms to have them look really juicy out over the ocean and as they start getting closer they don't look as wet," Hoxsie said. The agency previously predicted up to 2 inches of rain in most areas before revising the estimate as the system drew closer.

"The models are still transitioning from summertime to winter patterns," she explained. "As a result, the early season storms tend to look wetter; when they come in they're a bit drier."

Between a 1/2 inch and 1 inch of rain is forecast for areas of northern Santa Barbara County, including Lompoc, Santa Maria and communities in the Santa Ynez Valley. Officials from the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management said they do not expect the rainfall to cause damage to the region's burn areas.

Hoxsie cautioned motorists who plan to drive in the rain to slow down and leave extra room between cars. Drivers should also consider leaving early to ensure they have adequate time to safely reach their destination.

Though portions of central and northern California may get light showers, the system, which Hoxsie described as a typical winter storm, is expected to primarily dump rain across southern California. Mild showers are possible through Thursday afternoon before the system moves farther south.

Skies are expected to clear Friday and temperatures are set to warm up through the weekend. "It should be, in a word, beautiful," Hoxsie said, "but it's definitely cooler. Winter is not just here on the calendar but here in the weather, too."

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Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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