Storm over Santa Barbara County south coast triggers warnings and evacuations

MONTECITO, Calif. - A strong and quick storm is bearing down on the already devastated area of Santa Barbara County, mainly in Montecito and Carpinteria.

"The sheriff's office in consultation with emergency officials is issuing a mandatory evacuation order for residents living below the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier burn areas," said Sheriff Bill Brown in an afternoon news conference.

Those who live in the area can get information at and see a map of the most dangerous areas street by street, highlighted in red and yellow colors depending on the risk.

Emergency Services Director Rob Lewin said "people need to pay attention to this storm. It has thunderstorm capabilities which make it more unpredictable than the storm we had last week or the week before."

For residents lulled into thinking when the hills erupted in the January 9th storm that was all that could come apart, Sheriff Brown says they could be caught off guard in a big way.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. Those hills are filled with silt with rocks and boulders. There's plenty  more up there that could come down and in fact the condition may actually be more precarious than it was before the first storm."

Montecito resident Erland Wanberg has been evacuate three times since the Thomas Fire broke out in December. He is packing differently now.

"Last time when the rains came we had no idea it would be so devastating so we each packed a bag an outfit or two. So better safe than sorry," said Wanberg who had several days worth of clothing, his musical instruments and dog.

The fire-scarred drainages have been cleared out since the massive event in January that impacted 200 culverts and  20 bridges. Since then 8000 truckloads of material have been moved out by the county public works department and Army Corps of Engineers.

Officials say the hills may not need as much rain as it took two months ago to get large amounts of debris flowing.

The California Highway Patrol says the freeway will remain open until there is a risk to drivers. If the potential exists for a debris flow, Captain Cindy Pontes said U.S. Highway 101 will be closed from Carpinteria to Milpas Street to all traffic.

Alternate roads will be monitored closely from patrol units.

The urban search and rescue and water rescue teams will be pre positioned and standing by if someone is in peril much like they were for the January 9th incident when they moved swiftly to save many people that were trapped and injured in the disastrous mudflow.

comments powered by Disqus

Top Local Stories