Mandatory evacuations ordered as storm approaches burn areas
Updated at 3:15 p.m. March 1:
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation order March 1 for about 25,000-30,000 people near the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fire burn areas in Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria due to an approaching winter storm. Everyone must be out of the evacuation area by 6 p.m.
The National Weather Service said that there is a potential for rainfall to exceed the half-inch per hour threshold. To determine if a residence or business is in the evacuation area, consult the evacuation boundaries map at www.readysbc.org.
The potential for debris flows being triggered is low to moderate, officials said, but waterway flows may be rapid and blockage and overtopping is expected. They said roads may be flooded and impassable and people close to and immediately downstream of choke points may be endangered.
The Red Cross has established an evacuation center at Earl Warren Showgrounds at 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara. Earl Warren Showgrounds is also accepting large animals. For assistance evacuating large and small animals, contact Santa Barbara County Animal Services hotline at (805) 681-4332.
According to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, “The decision to evacuate these areas is being made out of an abundance of caution. 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.”
Brown said Highway 101 will remain open so people can evacuate but the California Highway Patrol could close the freeway based on the severity of the storm.
In Ventura County, the intensity of the rainfall is expected to be below the threshold in the burn areas. The county has been doing prep work for the storm, Garo Kuredjian, media relations officer for Ventura County Office of Emergency Services, and the Emergency Operations Center will be open with a duty officer on staff.
Rainfall levels are expected to reach half inch to an inch cumulatively, possibly a little stronger in mountain areas.
“They’ve been studying this pretty extensively, because we don’t want what happened in Santa Barbara to happen down here,” Kuredjian said. “There’s been some emphasis on the weather modeling. As time is going on, it looks like the storm will lose a little bit of steam.”
5:30 p.m. Feb. 28:
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office released a recommended evacuation warning Feb. 28, warning residents near the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier burn areas of potential mudslides and debris flows.
The National Weather Service predicted rainfall of a third to two-thirds of an inch per hour the evening of March 1, which could be heavy enough to cause mudslides in the communities of Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria and Summerland where fire depleted brush increased the likelihood of erosion.
“If at any time people feel threatened, take immediate action,” emergency officials said in a news release, warning of the risk of property damage and high loss of life. “Do not wait for a notification. Those with access and functional needs and those with large animals should leave.”
The region is still recovering from mudslides in January that ultimately killed more than 20 people, destroyed dozens of homes and properties and shut down Highway 101 for more than a week.
If a mandatory evacuation order is issued, the area must be clear by 9 a.m. March 1, the warning said. An interactive map of the burn areas is available at ReadySBC.org.
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