Pixel Tracker

Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 9:40 pm | Fog/Mist 56º


Federal Emergency Management Agency Close to Releasing New Flood Hazard Maps

Maps are intended to help Montecito residents and officials make decisions about the rebuilding process, and reduce vulnerability for future disasters

Forester Len Nielson from CalFire Click to view larger
Forester Len Nielson from CalFire speaks on Tuesday evening during a Thomas Fire and Jan. 9 debris flow recovery and rebuilding community meeting in Santa Barbara. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

In the wake of the Thomas Fire and the Montecito debris flows, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's new flood hazard maps are expected to be released in May, a FEMA representative announced Tuesday.

Santa Barbara County officials and partner agencies, in conjunction with other resources, showed their findings during a community meeting in Santa Barbara to plan for potential future rain events that may be dangerous due to the post-fire conditions of local watersheds.

“We will be providing the draft data set to the county this month, and in June that data will be widely available,” FEMA Region IX representative Eric Simmons said. “Recovery maps are hazard maps.”

FEMA is preparing recovery maps outlining new evaluation information after the Thomas Fire in December and Montecito debris flow in January to help residents and officials make decisions about the rebuilding process in the affected areas, and reduce vulnerability for future disasters.

The analysis provides a basis for future mapping and modeling to update the Flood Insurance Rate Map, or FIRM, for the county.

Recovery maps do not replace the current effective FIRM, Simmon said. 

In many cases, Simmon said, the recovery maps evaluation reflects a higher elevation than the current FIRM. 

The data and modeling also will provide a basis for future mapping that may be used to update the FIRM for the county.

Grids from the recovery maps detailing water depth and evaluations will be available digitally to allow emergency officials to use technological advances to view flood risks in their community, Simmon explained.

Water surface elevation grids on the updated recovery maps aid those responsible for permitting and floodplain management.

“The mapping is going to show a high hazard area,” Simmons said. “That is going to show the water surface evaluation associated with a one percent annual chance of rainfall — considering the post-burn watersheds.”

Kevin Cooper, a scientist with the federal Burned Area Emergency Response team, Click to view larger
Kevin Cooper, a scientist with the federal Burned Area Emergency Response team, speaks on Tuesday evening during a Thomas Fire and Jan. 9 debris flow recovery and rebuilding community meeting. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The Thomas Fire in December burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The subsequent deadly Montecito debris flow, which also caused infrastructure damage to the Montecito area, killed 23 people, and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes in January.

At the public meeting, liaisons representing the U.S. Forest Service Burn Area Emergency Response Team and the Cal Fire Watershed Emergency Response Team provided information on watershed impacts resulting from the Thomas Fire. 

“We are in a high-risk situation again leading to next fall and rain season,” Kevin Cooper, a scientist with the federal Burned Area Emergency Response team, told more than 60 residents at the meeting. “We have not received the plant growth that we hoped we would.” 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.