Rain could return to the Central Coast this week, as a storm system hovering over Central California is expected to pass over the Central Coast.

Forecast models indicate that a cutoff low -- a low-pressure system that moves independently of the westerlies -- will bring scattered showers to the region through Wednesday, said David Sweet, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. Rainfall totals are expected to range from hundredths- to one-tenth of an inch in the coastal areas, and one-tenth and one-quarter of an inch in the mountains. 

Sweet said the risk of debris flows and possible impact to recent burn areas is minimal, pointing to the predominance of scattered showers as opposed to areas of concentrated rainfall. 

"When it comes to the possibility of mud and debris flows, you look at the rainfall rate as the primary factor," he said. "This particular system doesn't post as great of a risk — about 20 percent — if a shower ends up over the right location."

Officials with the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management caution residents below recent burn areas to remain cautious and alert of changing or deteriorating conditions.

Late last week, several Santa Barbara County agencies — including the Office of Emergency Management — unveiled new evacuation definitions and an interactive risk map, stemming from what is now referred to as the 1/9 Debris Flow. Emergency Management officials do not not anticipate having to issue evacuations for homes beneath the Whittier or Thomas fire burn areas as of Monday afternoon.

The possibility of rain in coastal communities peaks Tuesday night at 40 percent. Partly cloudy conditions will continue through Wednesday, with highs forecast between the mid 50s to upper 60s. Overnight lows are expected to drop to the mid 30s Tuesday night before rising Wednesday.

The possibility of rain in the Santa Ynez Valley will continue midweek, with a 40-percent chance Tuesday night and 20-percent chance Wednesday afternoon. Afternoon highs will be in the lower to mid 60s, with lows staying in the upper 30s and mid 40s.

Long-term models suggest the area could experience weak to moderate Santa Ana conditions and higher regional temperatures through Friday, with little to no rain expected for the weekend.

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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