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Local News

Deadly Storm Is Not Done — More Rain Due in Flooded Areas of Santa Barbara County

Steady precipitation starts again late Tuesday morning, forcing some Montecito-area rescue crews to seek higher ground

Boulders crowd the 300 block of Hot Springs Road in Montecito Tuesday after heavy rainfall causes flooding and mudslides in the area. Click to view larger
Boulders crowd the 300 block of Hot Springs Road in Montecito Tuesday after heavy rainfall causes flooding and mudslides in the area.  (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

The fatal storm that caused massive flooding and washed away homes and vehicles in the Montecito area dropped its heaviest rainfall around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, with some rates higher than 1 inch per hour, according to the National Weather Service. 

Five deaths were reported as of 10 a.m., and emergency responders remained busy finding and rescuing people from debris flows, mudslides and flooding. 

Another dose of steady rain was expected in the late morning and early afternoon, potentially bringing even more destruction to the area. 

Rescue teams and responders were given orders to evacuate and get to high ground, as of 10:40 a.m., according to emergency radio traffic. 

Santa Barbara County sent out another emergency alert warning people to get to high ground if they are in debris-flow areas, since more severe flooding and possible flash flooding were expected for Thomas Fire burn areas in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria. 

The National Weather Service issued an urban and small stream flood advisory for Santa Barbara County areas Tuesday morning including the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fire burn areas, in effect through 1:30 p.m. 

“At 10:30 a.m., Doppler radar indicated an expanding area of moderate to locally heavy showers extending across much of southern Santa Barbara and western Ventura counties, including portions of the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier burn areas,” the advisory said.

“There is the potential for additional brief heavy downpours and isolated thunderstorms across the advisory area through early afternoon. Rainfall rates of 1/4-inch per hour will be common across the advisory area, but local rates in excess of 1/2-inch per hour will be possible at times under heavier showers and  thunderstorms. Minor mud and debris flows as well as roadway   flooding will be likely across the advisory area through early   afternoon. There is still the threat of more significant mud and debris flows if thunderstorms develop over the burn areas today. An automated rain gauge at Alisal Reservori, west of the Sherpa burn area, reported 0.74 inches of rain between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m.," the advisory said.

The National Weather Service said rainfall amounts could increase another inch in coastal areas and another 3 inches in mountain areas. 

By that time, Montecito and Summerland had received about 1.8 inches of rain in the previous 24 hours. Nearby mountain areas had received close to 3 inches.

There was a chance of showers and 20-percent chance of thunderstorms for Santa Barbara County on Tuesday, with the expectation everything would clear up by noon Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. 

A Flash Flood Watch was in effect through 10 p.m. Tuesday. 

The maximum rainfall generally happened between 3:30 a.m. and 3:45 a.m. near Montecito, Summerland and the Carpinteria Valley, the National Weather Service said. 

The agency reported that a Montecito rainfall station recorded 0.54 inches of rain in five minutes Tuesday morning; the KTYD Radio Towers recorded 0.73 inches in 10 minutes; Carpinteria stations recorded 0.86 inches in 15 minutes and 1.11 inches in a 30-minute period; and Matilija Canyon above Ojai recorded 1.45 inches within one hour. 

Click here for storm updates and evacuation information. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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