For anyone who hasn’t signed up at awareandprepare.org and missed the blaring klaxon text this afternoon, South County fire areas are under a mandatory evacuation order as of Tuesday noon. Weather forecasters see 5-10 inches of rain falling in the Santa Barbara foothills from Tuesday through Thursday in what is described as the worst storm of the winter season. The approaching “atmospheric river” is expected to deliver one-half to three-quarters of an inch at times, emergency managers announced, enough to trigger debris flows. The expected rainfall is greater than on January 9 when 3-6 inches fell in all.
“This is the big event, not to be taken lightly,” said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. A flash flood watch is expected to begin by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The storm will pick up real power Wednesday night, going into Thursday. The smaller creeks will be running and moving fast by then. No thunderstorms were in the forecast now, he said, but that could change.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it’s a half-inch of rain that could trigger a debris flow, but it might not get down too far, Boldt thought. From Wednesday evening to Thursday morning, however, the rain intensity could hit three-quarters to a full inch per hour.
The atmospheric river is what was formerly known as the “pineapple express,” and it brings plentiful rains across the Pacific from Hawaii. For Santa Barbara and much of Southern California, the large amounts of warm, moist air is what makes this storm different. Coming in from the southwest, “This plume will park over Santa Barbara County,” Boldt said.
The areas slated for evacuation are parts of Montecito, Summerland, and Carpinteria below the Thomas Fire burn scar. As well, residents below the Sherpa and Whittier Fire burn scar are ordered to leave their homes. The evacuation map, at which addresses can be entered to determine evacuation status, is available at readysbc.org. Assistance is also available by telephone at 2-1-1. Areas affected by the Alamo Fire are under a “recommended evacuation warning.”
The Red Cross shelter for evacuees will be set up at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Visit Santa Barbara has updated its hotel list for evacuee and first responder special rates. For information on where to take large and small animals, contact County Animal Services at (805) 681-4332.
This story will be updated as information becomes available.