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Mandatory Evacuation Zone Expanded in Montecito Flood Disaster Area

Order could be in place for up to two weeks as rescues, utility repairs and road clearance continue in ravaged community


This story was last updated at 5:10 p.m. Friday.

Mandatory evacuation orders were expanded Thursday evening to Montecito areas below Highway 192/Foothill road, a move Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said is meant to increase access for rescue and repair crews working in the area. 

The orders apply to the previously-defined "public safety exclusion zone," where crews continued Thursday searching for survivors and victims of the deadly flash floods and mudslides that hit the area early Tuesday morning. 

All the new orders, effective at 6 p.m. Thursday, are in areas that were previously under evacuation warnings, and many of those neighborhoods suffered major damage. 

"We know that this is a terribly inconvenient development, but it is also incredibly necessary," Brown said.

Click here to view an interactive map of the evacuation areas, or scroll down. 

Everyone in the area is asked to leave.

Mandatory evacuations ordered for public safety exclusion zone in Montecito. Click to view larger
Mandatory evacuations ordered for public safety exclusion zone in Montecito. (Santa Barbara County)

Brown said authorities cannot force people to go, but residents who do leave the evacuation area will not be allowed back in until the mandatory evacuation order is lifted.

"Auto and pedestrian traffic in the exclusionary zone has reached a point that it is seriously impacting the ability of search and rescue, public works, other first responders and repair crews to clear roadways and to engage in search and rescue, repair and damage-assessment operations," he said.

Rescue, recovery and repair personnel are actively working in the area, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is moving in to assist with heavy vehicles and equipment, he said. 

"We are anticipating that this will be in effect for at least a week," Brown said. "I would recommend that you actually prepare for as many as two weeks.

Utility trucks crowd the area around Olive Mill Road and Coast Village Road as part of the effort to restore services to flood-ravaged Montecito. Click to view larger
Utility trucks crowd the area around Olive Mill Road and Coast Village Road as part of the effort to restore services to flood-ravaged Montecito. (Urban HIkers / Noozhawk photo)

"We certainly hope it will be less than that, but the sooner we can get the resources in there that need to be in there to assess the damage in addition to the current rescue operation that is under way, the sooner we are going to be able to get things back to normal."

Incident Command is working with the county Animal Services Department to coordinate feedings for pets left behind that cannot be easily evacuated, he added. 

The Sheriff's Coroner's Office released the names of 17 people who died in the floods, and the injured count was reported at 28.

An additional name was released Friday, 87-year-old Joseph Francis Bleckel.

Brown said Thursday that they have a list of 48 missing individuals, some of which are active cases and some are from calls to the Emergency Operations Center and Family Assistance Center. However, by Friday morning, the number of missing had dropped to just 5.

There are active mandatory and voluntary evacuation areas outside the destruction in Montecito, including the Goleta Valley and Carpinteria Valley, and there have been no changes to those orders, though Brown said they will be reassessed Friday. 

Check back with Noozhawk for updates to this story.

Noozhawk Executive Editor Tom Bolton contributed to this report.

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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