The worst of the storms has passed, but more rainfall is expected tonight and over the next several days, Santa Barbara County officials announced during an update this afternoon. The storm is “probably the strongest we may see this season,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Jackson. The storm dumped anywhere from half an inch to an inch in North County and between one and three inches of rain in South County. The foothills and mountains had just over four inches of rain. During peak rainfall rates, the Thomas Fire burn areas saw 0.6 inches in 15 minutes and 1.09 inches in an hour. There was much heavier rain at the Refugio Pass, with 1.1 inches falling in 15 minutes. “You could say we really dodged a bullet,” said Jackson. Peak wind was reported at Gaviota at 84 mph.
While the worst of the rain is over, Sheriff Bill Brown has extended evacuations until at least tomorrow morning when conditions will be reevaluated. “It would not be safe or prudent to repopulate the areas,” he said. The rescue task force team and special enforcement team members with armored vehicles will continue to be on standby in the event they’re needed. More than 80 percent of people contacted complied with evacuation order, reported the sheriff. “We promise those of you who were evacuated that we will get you back into your homes as soon as possible,” he said.
As a result of the storm, Highway 101 southbound was shut down at Milpas and northbound lanes were closed at the 150. The freeway was impacted by water and mud overflowing from creek beds. The 101 was shut down before any motorist were stuck in the rising water and mud, said California Highway Patrol Captain Cindy Pontes. The 101 south reopened at 4 p.m. today, and the northbound is expected to be open before 8 p.m.
The flooded 101 made it impossible for a majority of producers and screenwriters participating in Saturday’s film festival panels from arriving. Film fest director Roger Durling joked it was the fest’s version of Survivor before introducing screenwriters Paul Schrader (First Reformed) and Kevin Willmott (BlacKkKlansman), who had flown in from New York and Kansas, respectively. The 8 p.m. event honoring Glenn Close as a Modern Master was rescheduled to Sunday at 3 p.m.
Many county and city roads have been impacted, including the underpass at Mission and Carrillo. A section of the 154 near Cachuma Lake is expected to be closed later today because of drainage issues nearby. City of Santa Barbara Fire Chief Eric Nickel reminds motorist they shouldn’t try and drive through water, “Turn around, don’t drown.”
City of Santa Barbara officials reported that trees were down in areas scattered around town and that some neighborhoods had lost power. Many low-lying intersections flooded during the height of the runoff.
Emergency personnel have responded to more than 50 service calls since around 5 a.m. Calls were made about downed trees and powerlines, flooding, traffic accidents, and stranded motorists.
More rain is expected to arrive tonight starting around 8 p.m. at Point Conception, making its way down to the Santa Barbara area between 10 p.m. and midnight. “Intensities will be nowhere close to what we saw with this storm last night,” said Jackson. Santa Barbara County still has a flash flood watch in effect until 4 a.m. tomorrow. The flood watch is expected to be updated as the storm moves through the area.
To conclude the press conference, the Sheriff extended his condolences to Jeff Dye, the Ventura Search and Rescue team member who was killed while trying to assist a rollover accident on the I-5. A second member is reported to be in critical condition. “We remind everybody to please drive carefully and slowly and to please be safe out there,” said Brown.