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Evacuation Orders Lifted as Santa Barbara County Avoids Major Storm Damage

Flood Advisory issued through 11:15 p.m. for Santa Barbara County as additional rain moves through area

 

This story was last updated at 10:03 p.m. Thursday.

Evacuation orders were lifted for the Santa Barbara County South Coast Thursday after a multi-day March storm soaked the region but caused no debris flows or major flooding. 

Mandatory evacuation orders for communities below the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire burn areas, and the evacuation warning for the Alamo Fire burn area, were to be lifted at 5 p.m. Thursday, according to the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management. 

All schools were planning to be open as usual on Friday. 

"For the most part the area has been spared, and very fortunately," National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Jackson said Thursday afternoon. 

The storm was "on its last gasp" as of 4 p.m., though there was the possibility of more showers throughout the evening and into early Friday, he said. 

The additional rainfall was not expected to produce anything more than minor debris flows, Jackson added.

Debris basins and creek channels that were clogged in the Jan. 9 Montecito debris flows were cleared and able to handle the flow of rainfall this week, the county said.

No major incidents were reported Thursday, although there was widespread roadway flooding and minor vehicle collisions. 

Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District personnel watch Arroyo Paredon Thursday. Click to view larger
Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District personnel watch Arroyo Paredon Thursday.  (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

The National Weather Service issued a Flood Advisory for eastern Santa Barbara County and southeastern San Luis Obispo County, through 11:15 p.m., after radar showed moderate to heavy showers moving through the area. 

"These additional heavy downpours on top of very wet grounds will likely cause roadway flooding across portions of the advisory area," according to NWS.

"Portions of highways 101, 154, 166, and 192 will be at risk for additional roadway flooding with some of these heavier showers. In addition, minor debris flows are possible if heavier storms drift into the Whittier and Thomas burn areas. Some locations that could experience flooding include Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria, Summerland, Cuyama, Carrizo Plain, Lake Cachuma as well as the Thomas and Whittier burn areas."

A Flash Flood Warning was issued for western Ventura County, through 12:15 a.m. 

A mudslide was reported on Highway 192 near Toro Canyon around 9 p.m., according to Santa Barbara County, but one lane was passable. 

Mud was blocking northbound Highway 101 at Mussel Shoals as of 10 p.m. Thursday and Caltrans District 7 was en route to clear the road, according to the California Highway Patrol.

On Coast Village Road Thursday afternoon, most businesses were closed due to the mandatory evacuation order, but the Vons was open for people to pick up supplies, water or food. 

Water flows near in Montecito Creek near Highway 101 Thursday morning. Click to view larger
Water flows near in Montecito Creek near Highway 101 Thursday morning.  (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

“Our priority first and foremost is to serve the community and that means residents and first responders,” said Jenna Watkinson, director of public affairs for Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions. 

“We are a resource to the community and a stable place where people can get the basics and essentials. We don’t have plans to close unless told that it’s not safe or if we are forced.”

The store's parking lot, on the western end, was mostly full of staged first responders on Thursday. 

This week's evacuation orders impacted about 21,000 people living in communities below the burn areas in Santa Barbara County.

Sheriff Bill Brown said most people in extreme risk zones complied, or said they were going to comply, with the mandatory evacuation order.

The hills burned by wildfire will cause a risk for debris flows for years into the future, and mandatory evacuations will probably be necessary again, he said, adding that he hoped this storm would be the last time this season. 

County Public Works closed multiple roadways throughout the county due to flooding, including Tepusquet Road from Santa Maria Mesa Road to Highway 166, and Refugio Road at Calle Real near Gaviota. 

Areas in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties set daily rainfall records Wednesday, including the Santa Barbara Airport with 1.87 inches of rain, but no debris flows were reported. 

» Click here for the latest National Weather Service forecast.

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

» Click here for the Ready Santa Barbara County website.

» Click here to sign up for emergency notifications from the Santa Barbara County Aware & Prepare program.

» Click here for Ventura County evacuation orders and emergency information.

Noozhawk reporter Brooke Holland contributed 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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