Mud Stays in the Mountains Above Montecito, Evacuation Orders Lifted

Rain Fell as Predicted, but Lightly

Santa Barbara emergency responders were prepared for the worst, with swift water rescuers and searchers positioned throughout the storm, but Montecito got the best outcome: a gentle rain.
Paul Wellman

[Update: March 2, 9:38 a.m.] Mandatory evacuation order was lifted as of 9 a.m. today.

[Original Story] The Search and Rescue teams, Sheriff’s deputies, and mutual aid personnel who’d waited and watched all night as a mostly light rain fell began to pack up their gear by daybreak. Several inches of rain had fallen, at times just over the half-inch per hour debris flow threshold, but what little mud came down out of the mountains stayed in the creek channels.

The creeks were running as they normally would from the two-and-a-quarter inches that had landed above Montecito by Friday morning, and the only reports of flooding were on State Route 192 at the 1700 block and at Bella Vista Drive.

A normal water flow was visible in Romero Creek at Jameson Road after lighter-than-expected overnight rains.
Paul Wellman

“It’s a test of all the work that’s been done,” the county’s emergency manager Rob Lewin said. They were going to evaluate this storm response as they had the one before the January 9 debris flow disaster. “We certainly do not take lightly having to put people out of their homes,” he said of the mass evacuation ordered yesterday.

The heaviest rain in Montecito came at 2 a.m., as predicted, with 0.6 inches per hour measured at the KTYD tower near Gibraltar Road. The slowly moving storm had peaked an hour earlier above the Whittier burn scar, dropping 0.7 inches through the hour around 1 a.m. for a storm total of 3.25 inches at Tecolote Creek, county senior hydrologist Shawn Johnson reported.

It was a rain that drought-parched Santa Barbara needed, with 3.5 inches captured at San Marcos Pass. Farther down the slopes, the totals tapered to an inch, and to one-half inch on the flats, as predicted. The second storm predicted for Saturday should be even weaker, said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Nelson Trichler, leading the Search and Rescue command post set up at Ortega Ridge Road, said they all appreciated the support of the people. About 87 percent of those in the mandatory evacuation area left home for the night. “A lot of people did not take it seriously on January 8, and we lost people,” he said, adding that until the vegetation grew back, caution was the watchword for the next couple of years. “It’s hard not to be jaded,” he said, “but you never know.”

Lewin said an announcement on rescinding the mandatory evacuation notice was imminent.


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