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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 9:18 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Caltrans: Highway 101 Will Not Reopen Until At Least Next Week

Missing person found in Ventura; Red Cross evacuation shelter moved to San Marcos High School

Looking north from the Olive Mill Road overpass near Montecito Monday, Highway 101 lanes are covered in mud and debris. Caltrans does not expect the roadway to open for at least another week. Click to view larger
Looking north from the Olive Mill Road overpass near Montecito Monday, Highway 101 lanes are covered in mud and debris. Caltrans does not expect the roadway to open for at least another week. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

This story was last updated at 10:34 p.m.

Highway 101 will not reopen in the Montecito area for at least another week due to clean-up and repairs, Caltrans announced Monday. 

The freeway has been closed between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria since Jan. 9 because of flooding and debris, with the worst of it near the Olive Mill Road overpass.

Caltrans suggests drivers detour using I-5 to Highway 46, near Paso Robles, or Highway 166, near Santa Maria. 

Amtrak is running passenger trains between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, and has added extra cars to accommodate the increased demand.

There are also boat ferries available while Highway 101 is closed. 

Removing mud and debris is the first step to reopening Highway 101. Then Caltrans will inspect the roadway and traffic-safety elements such as signs and guardrails, said Caltrans District 5 spokesman Jim Shivers. 

"The roadway itself is made of concrete slabs, and within the last two years we did a concrete slab replacement project through Montecito," he said. "We would anticipate those newer slabs would be in good condition, but given this major event we will need to do a visual inspection." 

The view looking up Cold Spring Canyon, which was scoured by flash flooding last week. Click to view larger
The view looking up Cold Spring Canyon, which was scoured by flash flooding last week. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

The safety of bridges and overpasses on Highway 101 is not a concern at this point, he added. 

State Route 192, which runs through Montecito and the mandatory evacuation zone, has several bridges missing railings completely, Shivers said. 

The roadway itself has been used by large trucks and response vehicles and "looks pretty good," he said. 

"At a time when we open (State Route 192), it will likely be with one-way traffic control and some sort of temporary railing in place for those bridges." 

The response effort in Montecito has transitioned from search and rescue to search and recovery, and the area was busy with heavy equipment from first responders and utility companies on Monday. 

Twenty people have been confirmed dead in the mudslides and flooding, 28 have been reported injured, and there are three people on the county's active missing persons list. 

One of the people on it previously, John "Jack" Keating, was found safe in Ventura with his dog, Tiny, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department. 

A prison hand crew working in the Hot Springs Road area of Montecito. Click to view larger
A prison hand crew working in the Hot Springs Road area of Montecito. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

The three people still listed as missing are John "Jack" Cantin, 17; Faviola Benitez Calderon, 28; and Lydia Sutthithepa, 2. 

Response crews are doing damage assessments and Santa Barbara County has an interactive map here.

A high priority for incident commanders continues to be cleaning out the debris basins in the canyons above Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria, according to Rob Lewin, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management.

With much of the rain season still ahead, removing that debris is crucial to preventing or minimizing future flooding, Lewin said.

“The community is also going to have to be prepared for the next storms,” Lewin told Noozhawk. “They’re vulnerable now…This mountains still have a lot of debris on them that could come down in a big rain.”

Workers were continuing to make progress Monday on clearing basins, according to Tom Fayram, deputy county public works director.

Before and after photos show the effects of flooding and mud flows on the Cold Spring Canyon debris basin. Click to view larger
Before and after photos show the effects of flooding and mud flows on the Cold Spring Canyon debris basin. (Santa Barbara County Flood Control District photo)

In the meantime, they are keeping an eye on a weather system expected to drop rain on the region Thursday and Friday. Forecasters are calling for between a tenth and a quarter of an inch of rain in most locations, with up to half an inch possible.

“We would welcome a little bit of rain right now,” Fayram said. “It would kind of get things going a little bit and flush the (creek) channels…We would take that.”

The creeks through Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria are back flowing to the ocean, he noted.

As of Monday night, authorities reported 115 single-family residences were destroyed and another 242 damaged. Four commercial properties were listed as destroyed, with another 21 damaged. 

These numbers have changed a lot over the last week, and incident command said in its update that "more accurate surveys and assessments have realigned the numbers to the most current picture and will continue to fluctuate as data is vetted." 

Mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect for most of Montecito, and there are widespread utility outages in the area due to storm-damaged infrastructure.  

An evacuation shelter has been open at Santa Barbara City College since last week, but has been moved to San Marcos High School at 4750 Hollister Ave. as of Monday. 

Check back with Noozhawk for updates to this story.

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.

Highway 101 in Montecito, southbound at Olive Mill Road from Noozhawk on Vimeo.

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