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Series of storms kicking off New Year for Tri-Counties, but El Nino impacts have yet to hit

An El Nino pattern feeds moisture in the Pacifc into the storm track, and can mean above average rainfall for the Tri-Counties.
An El Nino pattern feeds moisture in the Pacifc into the storm track, and can mean above average rainfall for the Tri-Counties.

Expert says January through March are historically the big months for El Nino to impact us, if it is going to happen.

The New Year is kicking off with a string of storms in the Tri-Counties. 

There’s the one that arrived Tuesday, one coming this weekend, and possibly a third early next week. But, what’s been missing from the equation so far has been the impacts of the El Nino pattern that’s developed in the Pacific.

"This El Nino is of considerable size, when we look out into the eastern Pacific," said Dr. Bill Patzert, who is an internationally known oceanographer, and researcher who’s been studying the impacts of El Ninos, La Ninas, and climate change for decades.

"El Nino has had a huge impact over Southeast Asia, drought in Africa, but here in Southern California, we haven't seen large impacts from El Nino-related storms," said Patzert. "But, the big months have just arrived, which are January, February, and March."

El Ninos have the potential to send large amounts of moisture into our weather patterns, setting the stage for torrential rainfall.

But, the oceanographer says the existence of an El Nino isn’t a sure thing for heavy rainfall. "1982 and 1983, '97 and '98, those were spectacular El Nino years," said Patzert. "But 2015, 2016, which was an immense El Nino (season), the rain essentially went to the north and south of Southern California."

Even as we wait to see what El Nino means for us, two storms are in our forecast, with possibly a third next week. The first arrived Tuesday night, and could mean showers into Thursday. The second is expected Saturday. But, rainfall amounts from both systems are expected to be less than an inch for most parts of the region.

We’ll also see heavy surf on the Central and South Coasts Wednesday through Sunday. But, it won’t be the same type of monster waves we had last week.

Ventura County could see 7-12 foot waves, Southern Santa Barbara County 4-7 foot waves, and San Luis Obispo County 10-18 foot waves.

The coastal flooding risk is being called minimal during the week, with a moderate risk of beach and parking lot flooding Sunday and Monday.


Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.