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Local News

Mandatory Evacuation Orders Issued for South Coast Areas

Some 30,000 residents affected by orders issued for western Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria areas

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department issued mandatory evacuation orders Thursday for areas, in red, from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria below the Thomas Fire burn area. The coming storm is predicted to have potential to cause mud and debris flows, officials said.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department issued mandatory evacuation orders Thursday for areas, in red, from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria below the Thomas Fire burn area. The coming storm is predicted to have potential to cause mud and debris flows, officials said.  (Santa Barbara County photo)

This story was last updated at 4:35 p.m. Thursday.

Storm-related mandatory evacuation orders were issued Thursday for people in South Coast communities below the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fire burn areas in Santa Barbara County.

The county Sheriff's Office issued the orders at 11 a.m.

County officials have been monitoring the storm forecast, and the National Weather Service predicts there is potential for rainfall to hit the 1/2-inch-per-hour threshold that can trigger debris and mud flows. 

Click here for a county map of the evacuation areas (in red) and other storm-related information

Click here for a map of debris flow risk areas in Santa Barbara County.

The evacuation orders apply to most areas between Montecito and Carpinteria (except large parts of Summerland) as well as canyons in western Goleta and the Gaviota Coast affected by the Sherpa and Whittier fires.

These areas were deemed to have extreme risk or high risk of debris flows in storms with rainfall rates of 1/2-inch per hour or more, according to the county map.

The mandatory evacuation order went into effect at noon Thursday and people were told to be out of these areas by 6 p.m.

Mandatory evacuation orders for southern Santa Barbara County include areas, in red, from the Gaviota Coast, left, to the Carpinteria Valley. Click to view larger
Mandatory evacuation orders for southern Santa Barbara County include areas, in red, from the Gaviota Coast, left, to the Carpinteria Valley.  (Santa Barbara County photo)

“The potential for debris flows being triggered is low to moderate,” the county said in a statement announcing the orders.

“Waterway flows may be rapid and blockage and overtopping in waterways is expected. Roads may be flooded and impassable. People close to and immediately downstream of choke points may be endangered. It is important that community members understand the seriousness of the situation and follow the direction of authorities.” 

The timeline for the storm's arrival appeared to shift a little later in Thursday morning's forecast, with the most intense rainfall expected between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. Friday.

A Red Cross evacuation center is open at Earl Warren Showgrounds, at 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara. 

The Santa Barbara County Animal Services hotline is 805.681.4332 for people who need assistance or information on evacuation animals, and Earl Warren Showgrounds is accepting large animals. 

An evacuation warning has been in effect for these areas since Wednesday, and Sheriff Bill Brown had said orders would be issued if the forecast did not change. 

He encouraged people to leave before nightfall and said like the Jan. 9 debris flows in Montecito, this storm is expected to be the most intense in the early morning hours. 

“The decision to evacuate these areas is being made out of an abundance of caution,” he said in a statement. “Due to the size and breadth of the evacuation area, not all residents will be contacted in person. Do not wait for deputies or someone else to come to your home or business. Everyone should begin the evacuation process now. Community members should check with their neighbors to see if they need help to evacuate.”

At a press conference announcing mandatory evacuation orders Thursday, Sheriff Bill Brown told residents to stay vigilant, stay informed and sign up for emergency alerts. Click to view larger
At a press conference announcing mandatory evacuation orders Thursday, Sheriff Bill Brown told residents to stay vigilant, stay informed and sign up for emergency alerts. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

An estimated 30,000 people live in areas below the Thomas Fire burn area, from Santa Barbara to the Carpinteria Valley, according to Brown.

Fire departments have increased staffing and additional resources were being staged on the South Coast, including search-and-rescue and swift-wate-rescue teams. 

The California Highway Patrol plans to close Highway 101 “if it is necessary” around 2 a.m. Friday ahead of the heaviest rainfall. The roadway would be reopened as soon as possible, the CHP said. 

Law enforcement agencies plan to enforce road blocks and keep people out of the evacuation zones, as they did following the Jan. 9 debris flows, according to the Sheriff's Department.

“Officials hope to return individuals to their homes as soon as it is safe to do so,” the county said in a statement.

Several schools decided to cancel or relocate classes Thursday and Friday due to the storm. 

Westmont College, which at 955 La Paz Road is included in the evacuation zone, said it will implement its Shelter Activated for Flood Emergencies plan at 6 p.m. Thursday. Officials said in an earlier message that Westmont is a safe place to be during a storm, and had no damage from the Jan. 9 debris flows.

Students are allowed to stay on campus or decide to leave, and staff members are helping connect students with hosts and transportation if they want to leave campus but don’t have a place to stay.

Residents can sign up here for Aware & Prepare emergency notifications from Santa Barbara County, and get more information about alerts here

Click here to sign up for breaking news text alerts from Noozhawk.

Visit Santa Barbara released a list of local hotels that are offering discounts for evacuees, including whether or not they accept pets. 

The San Roque Pet Hospital is offering free dog and cat boarding for people evacuating their Montecito homes this week. The hospital is part of the Santa Barbara Veterinary Group, which noted that the Montecito Pet Hospital may be forced to close for a few days and medical cases would be transferred to the San Roque Pet Hospital and Goleta Airport Pet Hospital.

Uber said Thursday that it is providing free rides, up to $40, to and from the Red Cross evacuation center at Earl Warren Showgrounds. People can enter the promo code STAYSAFE18 in the payment section of the Uber app, under Promotions, and the offer is valid through Sunday for uberX and uberXL, the company said.  

LYFT was offering $50 off rides to the evacuation center with the code SBSTORM, the company said. 

Downtown Santa Barbara and The Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region announced that they have postponed Thursday night’s 1st Thursday Block Party to a future date, "so that it is safe for all who wish to attend."

Thursday night's art walk event continues, (click here for programming), and the PuppetPalooza Central store and museum (located in Paseo Nuevo, across from Paseo Nuevo Cinemas) will be open, welcoming fans of puppets of all ages.

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.

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