The mandatory evacuation orders for all burn areas in Santa Barbara County are lifted as of 5 p.m. Thursday. Rain, even rain that approaches the debris-flow rate, is expected through the night, but residents may go home as this storm just doesn’t have the punch it held out over the Pacific. The debris basins and creek clearings had done their job, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Johnson.
The upper Romero Canyon area clocked in with the highest rain total in the county — over 5.5 inches since Tuesday. In downtown Santa Barbara, more than 3.5 inches fell, and Refugio and Lompoc got around 5 inches. Cachuma Reservoir gained a half-foot in elevation and about 770 acre-feet of water compared to Monday, Gibraltar 500 acre-feet, Jameson 83 acre-feet, and Twitchell over 200 acre-feet. Countywide, the rainfall stands at 54 percent of normal-to-date.
Despite “impressive rainfall,” said Sheriff Bill Brown, and high intensity rain, the burn areas escaped the worst of the storm as the storm veered to the north and south. They’d “agonized” over the decision to make everyone evacuate, the sheriff said, and will have to do the same in coming years. Brown thanked the roughly 75 percent who’d left home for their “overwhelming compliance with this evacuation order.”
Likewise, more than 400 first responders from around the state had been staged to deal with any emergencies, said Montecito Fire’s Kevin Taylor, including swift water rescuers and high-water vehicles. Only minor flooding had occurred with mud washing onto the highway and railroad tracks in places, a spokesperson with the emergency center said.
Large amounts of runoff went into the creeks and debris basins that had been cleared by county Public Works and Army Corps of Engineers crews, said Public Works’ deputy director Tom Fayram. Cold Spring’s debris basin was most heavily affected, filling about a third with small rocks, he said. His crews were already back at work clearing them all from Montecito to Carpinteria before the next storm.