Microburst in Santa Barbara caused capsized sailboats, one sunk

Noozhawk. By Tom Bolton.

Intense winds accompanying a powerful thunderstorm slammed Santa Barbara County’s South Coast on Sunday afternoon, swamping numerous boats and watercraft in the Santa Barbara Harbor and dumping dozens of people in the water.

The sudden squall splintered and knocked down trees throughout the area and sent large patio umbrellas flying through the air at Arroyo Burro Beach Park.

National Weather Service forecasters told Noozhawk the gusts reached 80 mph at the harbor from what was being called a “microburst” — a downdraft of air often found in strong thunderstorms.

Intense winds accompanying a powerful thunderstorm slammed Santa Barbara County’s South Coast on Sunday afternoon, swamping numerous boats and watercraft in the Santa Barbara Harbor and dumping dozens of people in the water.

The sudden squall splintered and knocked down trees throughout the area and sent large patio umbrellas flying through the air at Arroyo Burro Beach Park.

National Weather Service forecasters told Noozhawk the gusts reached 80 mph at the harbor from what was being called a “microburst” — a downdraft of air often found in strong thunderstorms.

Harbor Patrol Officer Ryan Kelly was on routine patrol in a 33-foot boat just outside the harbor entrance at about 2:40 p.m. when the storm unleashed its fury.

“We saw the rain approaching, and there were probably about 10 seconds of rain mixed with hail,” he told Noozhawk. “Then the winds picked up and it got really gusty and spun the boat around. It was kind of like white-out conditions.

“By the time we could see again, there were lots of people in the water — from stand-up paddle boards, to kayaks and sailboats.”

Kelly and his crew alone plucked 17 people from the water and returned them safely to shore, adding that only one minor injury was reported.

Read more at Noozhawk and watch a video of the storm.

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