First the fire, now the floods. Southern California is bracing for an enormous storm front moving in Tuesday night, with Santa Barbara County ordering the evacuations of about 30,000 residents. The rainy season in California has been lackluster so far, and normally rain this time of year is a welcome and life-sustaining event. However, in the aftermath of the worst fires in California history that were followed by deadly mudslides in early January, much of Southern California is concerned about what this rainfall will bring.
The Thomas Fire that burned through Ventura County in late 2017 destroyed much of the vegetation that holds hillsides together when it rains, absorbing the precipitation into the ground. When there’s no plant life to prevent them, mudslides have essentially no obstacles as they gain momentum down the hillsides. About 5 to 10 inches of rain is expected to drop by Friday, approximately double the amount received during the deadly storm in January. That first major winter storm of the season dropped approximately 3 to 6 inches of rain in some areas, triggering massive mudslides in the Montecito area that ultimately killed 21 people. In comparison, the Thomas Fire itself killed only two people.
Residents in the areas effected by the fires have been ordered to evacuate — the third evacuation order they’ve received this month alone.
A strong, long-duration storm is on track to bring heavy rain to #SoCal Tue through late Thu night. Prepare now for heavy rain, urban and small stream flooding, debris flows. Ponding water on roads can create dangerous driving conditions. #CAstorm #CAwx #LArain pic.twitter.com/fQDCZHwuDh
— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) March 19, 2018
The National Weather Service is working to spread awareness of the most at-risk areas, along with county authorities and the Office of Emergency Management. Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, released a statement that said it’s not just the burn areas that need to be on high alert, as the storm could drop up to three quarters of an inch in an hour, which could cause flooding even without the recent fires. “We could experience localized flooding and road closures which are not isolated to the burn areas,” Lewin said. “The threat of rock falls, mud slides and debris flow is high.”
Where are the recent burn areas? Most concerning: Thomas, Whittier, La Tuna, Sherpa, Fish, and Sand burns. If you are near these burns, DEBRIS FLOWS ARE LIKELY, stay alert to the weather and heed messages/evacuations from emergency officials. #larain #cawx #thomasfire #Montecito pic.twitter.com/UiEIltKpGi
— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) March 20, 2018
An evacuation center will be stationed at Earl Warren Showgrounds, Warren Hall at 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara County Animal Services hotline at (805) 681-4332 is available for helping evacuate animals. You can find the evacuation map here.