Video: Beachgoers Run For Cover As Sudden 'Microburst' Slams Santa Barbara Area On Sunday
A sudden weather phenomenon known as a microburst hit the Santa Barbara area on Sunday at about 3 p.m. The video above (shot at Hendry’s Beach) shows just how quick the event progressed; within a matter of seconds the showers gave way to howling gusts that ripped beach umbrellas from the sands—people ran for cover, and cameraman Leonard Diaz can be heard saying, "Don't panic. Don't panic."
"Everybody was screaming. I could hear people screaming all over the beach. There was a lot of people that were hurt here because of the boats that were flying around," witness Monique Martinez told WPTV 5. The National Weather Service told SFGate that the strong winds, which went up to 80 mph, lasted several minutes in total.
And here's a collection of videos that show the microburst landing in different spots in the Santa Barbara area. This one highlights the stark contrast between the calm that exists before the event, and the chaos that ensues.
KEYT 3 reports that one teen was critically injured during the sudden storm. The National Weather Service released a report detailing the structural damage that had been caused by the microburst. The report notes that the phenomenon was strong enough to uproot trees at Pershing Park, toss boats around in the water, snap a flag pole in half, and down powerlines.
As for what a microburst is, the NWS describes it as a "column of sinking air (downdraft) within a thunderstorm." Meteorologist Robbie Munroe of the NWS told LAist that, sometimes, when a storm begins to weaken, the cooler air that exists in the upper regions of the storm system will fall. "The focus isn't the rain or hail, it's that cooler air. As it hits the ground it spreads in all directions and accelerates," Munroe explained.
Munroe likened the phenomenon to a water balloon hitting the ground. The NWS tweeted out a 3D graphic on Monday showing the mechanisms of the microburst; the white blob that descends to the ground is what brought on the phenomenon:
When asked if it was a common occurrence in Southern California, Munroe said that it's "uncommon," adding that "central states and portions of the East Coast, where severe weather is more common—they see it more frequently."