Unusual Conditions Bring Snow to Santa Barbara


February 27, 2023


News, Weather


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(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) — Road blockages, closures, and flash flood warnings didn’t stop Santa Barbara County residents and others from enjoying their shot at the snow— a rare sight for us Southern Californians. 

Two people navigating the traffic and trying to stay warm on Feb. 25, 2023. [Credit: Tiana Molony]

On Saturday, a brief break in the persisting rain from the week before revealed snow-covered mountains above Santa Barbara County. This rare occurrence results from extreme temperature drops and heavy rainfall in the area, with low snow levels stooping to about 1,000 feet, creating a light dusting in the Santa Barbara County mountains. Points of 4,000-5,000-foot elevation were expected to gather more than three feet of snow, according to KSBY

Snow in Santa Barbara County is a strange occurrence, happening only a handful of times throughout history.   The unusual event never fails to captivate residents despite road closures to and from Los Padres National Forest and the surrounding areas, where snowfall peaked, according to Los Padres National Forest. 

When my sister asked me if I wanted to accompany her to the snow on the journey up the San Marcos Pass (Hwy 154) — a road with a notoriously dangerous reputation — I was apprehensive, especially because of the unyielding rain and vicious winds that day. Traveling to the snow-covered areas around Santa Barbara County requires extreme caution and a four-wheel vehicle drive in some areas, especially with the unexpected weather conditions. 

Chili enjoys snow for the first time on Feb. 25, 2023. [Credit: Tiana Molony]

Somehow she convinced me to make the trek, and we cautiously climbed the pass and turned onto Painted Cave Road. I started to question our decision. Several people told us it might not be worth it as more than a hundred cars were making their way up and down the winding, seemingly never-ending road. 

Despite my pleas to turn around, my sister insisted we continue. As we slowly inched our way to the top behind a long line of cars, snowfall slowly appeared before us. We parked our car and basked in the falling white dust feeling like we were hundreds of miles away from home after what was only a 29-minute drive. I couldn’t help but wonder how many kids, maybe even adults, were seeing snow for the first time. Underdressed people only confirmed my understanding that this was a rarity for Santa Barbara County residents.

Road Breakage off Camino Cielo in Santa Barbara on Feb. 26, 2023. [Credit: Tiana Molony]

 A site that may drive some indoors had the opposite effect, luring families to witness the once-in-a-lifetime sight. In a place where last Christmas was 75 degrees and sunny, it’s no wonder residents stopped at nothing to turn their normal Saturday morning into a truly memorable one.

As the weekend ended, Santa Barbara and the surrounding area officials stressed extreme caution towards anyone attempting to drive up the pass to the snow. The area is expected to receive more rainfall and extreme temperatures throughout this week and maybe even the first week of March, according to KSBY

Stay safe out there!


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