Updated at 4:15 p.m. March 22:
Mandatory evacuation orders in Santa Barbara County will be lifted by 5 p.m. as the rainstorm that has pelted the Tri-Counties for days winds down, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced at 4 p.m. March 22.
Orders for the recommended evacuations near the Alamo fire burn area will be lifted simultaneously. The National Weather Service is reporting that the highest rainfall rates have passed. Moderate to heavy showers will continue through the night but no major debris flows are expected.
Some roads continue to be closed due to flooding, or other hazards, and the Sheriff’s Office is requesting that all residents use caution when returning to their homes.
Posted at 11:30 a.m. March 22:
The Central Coast’s first spring rainstorm was still slamming the Tri-Counties the morning of March 22 and 30,000 residents remained evacuated.
Highway 33 southbound from Fairview Road to Lockwood Valley Road, Highway 1 between Oceano and Pismo Beach and Black Road from Stowell Road to Main Street in Santa Maria and one mile north of Guadalupe were closed on March 22. Cal Fire rescued two people from the surging Salinas River near the Niblick Road Bridge in Paso Robles.
Ventura County is expecting heavy rain later in the day and 22 more homes have been evacuated, according to Ventura County Public Information Officer Garo Kuredjian. Nordhoff High School has been set up as a Red Cross shelter.
About 427 emergency personnel are still stationed in Santa Barbara and Montecito in preparation for debris flows, equipped with 10 of the National Guard’s High-Water Rescue Vehicles and helicopters on standby for airlift rescues.
Flash flood watches are in effect for all of Santa Barbara County until 5 p.m. March 22 and Kelly Hoover, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, said rainfall rates are expected to reach one half to one inch per hour, or more, later in the day.
“The rest of this storm has the potential to drop more rain than Santa Barbara County normally get in an entire year,” said Robert Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.
Highway 101 was open as of 11:30 a.m. but being closely watched.
“We are monitoring the safety of the Highway 101 corridor and we will notify as soon as possible if debris or flooding causes a closure,” said California Highway Patrol Capt. Cindy Pontes.
Rainfall totals in Santa Barbara County for the last 48 hours had reached 3.08 inches as of 11 a.m. March 22, according to the public works department. In Ventura and Ojai, rainfall totals of up to 4 inches have been reported and, in San Luis Obispo County, totals of 6.88 inches have been reported near Santa Maria.
• Contact Robert Shutt at [email protected]