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Thursday, January 24 , 2019, 1:50 am | Fair 42º


Evacuation Warning Issued for South Coast Communities Ahead of Thursday Storm

Officials: 'Moderate to heavy rainfall early Friday could be enough to generate isolated debris flows'

A photo taken from a drone on Monday shows the Cold Spring Debris Dam in Montecito completely cleaned out and ready for new storms. A weather system expected Thursday night into Friday has prompted county officials to issue an evacuation warning for communities below recent burn areas. Click to view larger
A photo taken from a drone on Monday shows the Cold Spring Debris Dam in Montecito completely cleaned out and ready for new storms. A weather system expected Thursday night into Friday has prompted county officials to issue an evacuation warning for communities below recent burn areas. (Santa Barbara County Public Works Department photo)

This story was last updated at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

An evacuation warning for South Coast communities below recent burn areas was issued Tuesday night ahead of a storm that has potential to drop heavy rainfall on the region later this week. 

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department elevated the "pre-evacuation advisory," which was issued Sunday, to a "recommended evacuation warning," effective at 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to the county. 

The warning applies to the Thomas Fire, Sherpa Fire, and Whittier Fire burn areas, in Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria. 

Click here for a county map of debris flow risk areas.

Click here for a map of evacuation warning areas. 

As of Tuesday night, the National Weather Service forecast a storm hitting Santa Barbara County Thursday night through Friday, with rainfall reaching rates of 1/3-inch to 2/3-inch per hour.

"Moderate to heavy rainfall early Friday could be enough to generate isolated debris flows" near burn areas, according to the county.

Communities below recent burn areas are "strongly recommended to relocate to safer locations for their own safety," the county said in an emergency notifications Tuesday night. "High risk for loss of life and property exists." 

Schools will be open on Wednesday and more evacuation information will be issued by 6 p.m. that day, the county said.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross said it will open an evacuation center at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara, at noon Wednesday and anyone impacted by the storm is welcome. 

"If needed, the Red Cross is prepared to transition to a full sheltering operation," the organization said on Twitter. 

If mandatory evacuation orders are issued, they would go into effect by 9 a.m. Thursday, according to the county. 

The storm coming Thursday will be significantly wetter than the one that came through Monday, with heavy rain expected Thursday into Friday, said Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Oxnard.

The South Coast area is expected to get the heaviest rain.

From roughly 4 p.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday, the storm is expected to drop almost 2 inches of rain, she said, and could drop up to a 1/2-inch of rain before that.  

During that overnight period, rainfall rates could get high enough to trigger mud and debris flows, which is what prompted the county’s warning, she added.

Scroll down to read the county's new evacuation definitions and pre-storm evacuation timeline released earlier this month. 

Following Santa Barbara County's new storm-related evacuation timeline, mandatory evacuation orders mean everyone in designated evacuation areas is ordered to "relocate to safer locations for their safety.

"Persons who refuse to comply with a mandatory evacuation order will not be forcibly removed from their homes. However, they should not expect rescue or other lifesaving assistance after the onset of the emergency event," according to the county.

The Sheriff's Department told people to take immediate action if they feel threatened and not wait for an evacuation notification. 

The California Highway Patrol said it plans to shut down Highway 101 between Milpas Street in Santa Barbara and Highway 150, near Carpinteria, just before a significant storm's estimated arrival time. 

There are no plans to close Highway 101 on Wednesday, said public information officer Sheri Benninghoven who was working in the county’s Joint Information Center Tuesday night.

The CHP would close the freeway at the last possible time ahead of the storm’s arrival, which as of Tuesday was looking like late Thursday evening, she said.

During the mandatory evacuations for the Jan. 9 debris flows, residents and business owners were not allowed back into the area if they left, with law enforcement staffing road blocks and patrolling throughout Montecito.

The Sheriff's Department intends to enforce roadblocks and keep people out of the evacuation zones if mandatory evacuation orders are issued for this storm, spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said Tuesday. 

Click here for more storm-related information from Santa Barbara County.

The Freedom Warming Centers for homeless residents will activate Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights due to the weather forecast and the hotline information number is 805.324.2372.

Open locations, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., include: the Santa Maria Salvation Army at 200 W. Cook St.; Peace Lutheran Church in Lompoc at 1000 W. Ocean Ave.; University Methodist Church in Isla Vista at 892 Camino Del Sur; First Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara at 21 E. Constance Ave.; and Carpinteria Community Church at 1111 Vallecito Road, according to organizers. 

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.

Santa Barbara County Storm Evacuation Definitions 

Santa Barbara County Storm Evacuation Timeline 

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