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(Santa Barbara County photo)

Goleta and Santa Barbara County officials held the second in their series of winter emergency preparedness meetings Tuesday evening to inform residents of the flooding that is expected this winter.

“We probably won’t be able to issue evacuation warnings,” said Goleta Community Services Director Steve Wagner, who is heading up the city’s effort to prepare local roadways and culverts for the increased flow of water and sediment expected with the first winter rains.

Unlike the Gap Fire, which started in the Los Padres National Forest and worked its way south, giving local emergency officials time to coordinate an evacuation of residents, the potential for flash flooding makes it nearly impossible for Santa Barbara County and the city of Goleta to issue any effective evacuation warnings.

“Not that we wouldn’t try,” Wagner said. The bottom line, speakers told the audience at the meeting in the auditorium of Goleta Valley Junior High School, is to be vigilant, prepared and have their own disaster plan.

Starting Wednesday, several planes will be flying in and out of the Santa Barbara Airport to load up on and drop hydromulch on the affected areas north of the Goleta Valley. Wagner said the Gap Fire was so hot in those areas that not only was the vegetation taken out but the topsoil was burned, reducing its capacity to absorb water. The sedimentation expected from the winter rains is projected to be about 15 to 20 times the normal amount because of erosion that is expected to occur.

As the county finishes up its stream clearing process and the city modifies local infrastructure to accept and direct flows away from homes and businesses, residents who own property in the 100-year FEMA floodplain, including the region near the airport, the Winchester Canyon community, near the Fairview shopping center and Old Town, are urged to begin sandbagging and purchase flood insurance. While it doesn’t cover mudslides, the insurance covers up to $250,000 worth of flood damage. The insurance takes about a month to become effective, and is available to homeowners and renters.

“This is about planning,” said City Manager Dan Singer, who reminded the audience to be prepared in case the electricity gets knocked out.

To purchase flood insurance, prospective buyers should check out

Sandbags are available at Fire Station 14 at 320 Los Carneros Ave. The usual 25-bag limit doesn’t apply under these circumstances.
Click here to monitor the weather, and its roughly six-hour Flood Watch alert and its more imminent flood warning alert. A weather radio is recommended for home and business owners who need more real-time information.

To request an assessment of one’s property, or assistance with sandbagging for disabled property owners, call the city of Goleta at 805.961.7500 or county public works at 805.568.3440 or 805.961.7570.

For more information and to get on the city’s alert system, visit the city of Goleta’s Web site, or call 805.961.7508 for an information line. There also will be information on display at kiosks around town and on Goleta TV Channel 19.

The city will hold more informational meetings, including one from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Goleta Valley Community Center at 5679 Hollister Ave., and another geared toward businesses within the vulnerable areas from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Goleta City Hall Council Chambers at 130 Cremona Drive, Suite B.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at