Crews and contractors with Santa Barbara County are busy this afternoon clearing out Montecito’s debris basins after this morning’s heavy downpour.
“This debris basin [in Romero Canyon] worked perfect,” said Rick Tomasini, a maintenance superintendent with county Flood Control. “There was nothing in here yesterday,” he added, pointing across the basin, now piled approximately 20 to 30 feet deep in rocks ranging in size from softballs to small automobiles. “It worked like it was supposed to.”
Tomasini said he was standing above the banks of the debris basin just after 9 a.m. today when a massive surge of floodwaters drained from Romero Canyon carrying trees and rock. The flood had been triggered roughly 15 minutes prior when an intense storm cell passed over the region.
As the rain backed off around noon, county crews and contractors operating heavy machinery begin to clear the basin ahead of another downpour forecasted for this evening.
“I think the debris basins performed fantastic,” said Alex Broumand, an assistant fire marshall with Montecito Fire Protection District. He said he was at Station No. 1, on San Ysidro Road between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m. when he received a text from his wife saying that Goleta was getting slammed by heavy rain. “I immediately grabbed by my stuff and drove to the debris basin at Cold Spring [Creek],” he said. “In less than five minutes, the water level went from about four feet below the spillway to spilling over, and the boulders were piling up and filling it.”
The sound of the boulders crashing downstream was “a giant rumble, a growl of the earth,” he said. “I’m speechless to describe it.”
This morning’s rainstorm arrived with heavy winds, Broumand said, with average speeds in Montecito running 35 to 40 mph. He said he heard that gusts of nearly 80 mph were recorded high up in the mountains, where rainfall totals were also much more intense.
“The calls we were getting [at Montecito Fire] were service calls,” Broumand said, such as down trees and flooding into houses. “But no medical calls, no rescues.”