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Friday, December 14 , 2018, 2:32 am | Fair 50º


Santa Barbara County Declares Local Emergency for Impending Winter Storm

Resources assemble to evacuate South Coast communities, prepare for expected flash flooding from heavy rainfall

With rain falling, a CalFire inmate crew from San Luis Obispo cuts and clears potentially run off clogging debris from Toro Canyon Creek in Carpinteria on Monday. Heavy rain is expected for the area overnight. Click to view larger
With rain falling, a CalFire inmate crew from San Luis Obispo cuts and clears potentially run off clogging debris from Toro Canyon Creek in Carpinteria on Monday. Heavy rain is expected for the area overnight. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

This story was last updated at 8:05 p.m.

Santa Barbara County declared a local emergency Monday for the winter storms on the way, which are expected to cause flooding and debris flows below recent burn areas, including the massive Thomas Fire.

On the South Coast, an estimated 7,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders and another 23,300 people have been given evacuation warnings.

Click here to view an interactive map of evacuation areas in Santa Barbara County, or scroll down. 

The weather forecast for Santa Barbara County includes a 100-percent chance of rain Monday afternoon through Tuesday, strong winds, and rainfall rates that could reach 1-inch per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

Areas had received relatively light rainfall on Monday morning and afternoon — most areas received less than a half-inch as of 8 p.m. — but the heaviest rainfall was expected between 10 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. Tuesday.  

“The Thomas Fire has burned significant portions of critical watershed, and now poses serious risks of flooding and debris flow in major population centers,” the county emergency proclamation said.

“The storm also creates serious threats of flooding and debris flows in the recent burn areas of the Whittier Fire, Alamo Fire, Sherpa Fire and Rey Fire.

“These storms are predicted to cause conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property” in the county of Santa Barbara and are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of the combined forces of Santa Barbara County Operational Area to combat,” the declaration said.

Mark Hall, with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team, talks to residents on Feather Hill Road about storm evacuations. Click to view larger
Mark Hall, with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team, talks to residents on Feather Hill Road about storm evacuations.  (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato signed the declaration Monday and the Board of Supervisors is expected to ratify it at Tuesday’s meeting.  

Public Works officials have said the Thomas Fire so severely burned local watersheds that the risk of flash floods and debris flows is 10 times higher than before the fire.

A Flash Flood Watch is in effect through 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

“While the recent burn areas are most threatened and should be emphasized, flash flooding is possible nearly anywhere in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties,” according to the National Weather Service.

A Wind Advisory was also in effect through 7 a.m. Tuesday for South Coast areas, where there was a forecast of gusts up to 45 mph and up to 55 mph in the foothills.  

Members of the Long Beach Fire Department check equipment at the Earl Warren Showgrounds staging area Monday. Click to view larger
Members of the Long Beach Fire Department check equipment at the Earl Warren Showgrounds staging area Monday. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

The gusty winds will make driving difficult, especially for high profile vehicles, on roadways including Highway 101, Highway 154 and Highway 192, the advisory said.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered north of Foothill Road/Highway 192 between Cold Spring Canyon in Montecito and Highway 150 in Carpinteria.

Also included in the order are the areas along Tecolote Canyon, Eagle Canyon, Dos Pueblos Canyon, Gato Canyon, El Capitan Canyon, Calle Ecuestre and Calle Quebrada west of Gato Canyon, and the Whittier burn areas near Goleta.

An evacuation warning was added Monday afternoon for parts of Tepusquet Canyon near the Alamo Fire burn area east of Santa Maria.

Residents fill sandbags at the Montecito Union School campus Monday. Click to view larger
Residents fill sandbags at the Montecito Union School campus Monday.  (Anthony Ranii photo)

The American Red Cross has opened an evacuation center at the SBCC cafeteria, 721 Cliff Dr., and evacuees can park in Lot 1B. 

Small animals are allowed at the SBCC evacuation center or can be taken to the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Road.

Large animals can be evacuated to Earl Warren Showgrounds, at 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara. Call the county Animal Services hotline at 805.681.4332 for help evacuating small and large animals, Santa Barbara County officials said. 

The county set up a hotline for public information about evacuation areas, storm updates and to coordinate evacuation transportation, at 805.681.5542.

A voluntary evacuation warning has been issued for all areas south of Foothill Road/Highway 192 to the ocean and east of Hot Springs Road/Olive Mill Road to Highway 150/the county line.

Several South Coast schools announced closures for Monday and Tuesday, including Montecito Union, Laguna Blanca's Lower School, Cold Spring School District, Crane Country Day School and Carpinteria Unified School District high schools. 

Public Health officials advised people to avoid contact or limit contact with flood water to minimize health risks. 

“With the recent Thomas Fire, fire debris and other materials may also be included in storm water runoff,” officials said in a statement.

“Studies indicate that contact with storm water may increase the risk for certain types of illnesses such as rashes, fever, chills, ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea. All untreated water should be considered as potentially contaminated.

“The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and United States Environmental Protection Agency recommend that people avoid contact with floodwater due to potentially elevated levels of contamination with raw sewage and other toxic or hazardous substances that may be present.”

People are also advised to avoid the ocean, creeks and standing water for at least three days after a rain event. 

Sandbags are available at locations throughout the county. Click here for more information.

Residents are encouraged to sign up for alerts from the Aware & Prepare program, and to heed all evacuation orders and warnings.

» Click here for Santa Barbara County’s interactive map of possible flooding areas.

» Click here for the latest weather forecast.

» Click here for real-time rainfall amounts.

» Click here for road closures in Santa Barbara County.

» Click here to sign up for Noozhawk’s free breaking news text alerts to your cell phone.

Evacuation orders have also been issued for areas of Ventura County, including Matijila Canyon and Wheeler Gorge, and Los Angeles County.  

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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