Microburst sweeps Santa Barbara
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What felt to many like an offshoot of a rogue hurricane, ravaged State Street, Westmont campus, and the surrounding areas on September 3, 2017, around 3:00 pm. Locals and labor day weekenders enjoying the afternoon were caught in the sudden storm that lasted approximately twenty minutes. Despite the tropical air, flash floods, and intense wind speeds, the bizarre phenomena was not a hurricane, but
As reported by ABC7News and the Santa Barbara Independent, the microburst contained 80 mile per hour winds that tore roofs, downed trees, and swept up surfboards during the downpour. Videos flooded social media of the bursts aftermath; capturing palm tree debris and cars making their way through the flash flooding on State Street and the surrounding streets.
A microburst, according to the National Weather Service, “is a localized column of sinking of air within a thunderstorm is usually less than or equal to 2.5 miles in diameter.” The microburst forms in the development of the thunderstorm itself. As explained by the National Weather Service, the updraft creates a suspension of water within the thunderstorm until the air cools and causes a downdraft. Then, the downdraft leads to the outburst of strong rain and wind that can reach well over 100 miles per hour once it reaches the ground. The Santa Barbara microburst originated from a post-tropical cyclone thunderstorm that had traveled up the coast from Hurricane Lidia in Baja California. According to WMUR9, microbursts are comprised of direct winds traveling in straight lines so that the rains and winds are centralized.
The localization of the storm was captured by various beach webcams ranging from Carpinteria State Beach to East Beach. While the footage from the East Beach locations depicted the swirling debris and downpour, the view from Carpinteria showed what appeared to be a “wall of rain” as described by Westmont sophomore Eddie Wertz, who was driving north towards Santa Barbara at the time.
Westmont student, Jackie George, was caught off-guard by the un-Californian weather downtown at Santa Barbara Roasting Company when the rain and wind picked up: “A lot of people went outside to feel the rain when it first started, but as soon as it picked up with the wind, it was clear to everyone they should move inside. The rain was blown into the coffee shop, the power went out, and we could see large tree branches breaking off and blowing around outside. Once it was over, there were broken trees on top of cars in the parking lot-- we weren’t even allowed to take our car until until after the fire department cleared them.”
The Westmont campus was not excluded from the range of the microburst. While Westmont has had its fair share of flash-floods and storms, the cool rain swept campus after a day filled with tropical-like humidity. Westmont junior, Jay Real, commented on his experience from the GLC of the surprise weather as a community builder: “A bunch of people started leaving their dorms and we all gathered in the lower hallway of the Southern GLC building. We took cover as we just talked about the rain and how we thought it was probably one of the weirdest things in the world. It actually built a nice little sense of community — we had GLC residents, Armington and VK people.”
Californians are strangers to rain, but this was a whole new level of percipitation.