Rain filled Santa Barbara's gutters on Saturday morning. | Credit: Don Brubaker

Santa Barbara’s Storm Number 14 is bringing slow and steady rains so far, with very little of the unrelenting downpours and floods of last Monday. In combination with the saturated soil, however, aftereffects are still being felt.

State Route 154 is still closed, as is SR 166 in Santa Maria; the Old Coast Highway between Salinas Street and Montecito is closed, according to ReadySBC.org, where local road closure information can be found; and in the central county, Jalama Road and San Miguelito are both impassible. Closer to home, landslides hide under gigantic blue tarps blanketing some front-country hillsides; a very large tree fell across Patterson Avenue last night, taking out the power between Hollister and the 101, and blocking the road; and a giant crack in the cliff at Shoreline Park in the City of Santa Barbara led to warning signs both at the park and below at Leadbetter Beach.

Gibraltar Dam began spilling into the Santa Ynez River on January 5. | Nick R. Cabugos

By Sunday, the current storm brought 3 inches to San Marcos Pass and 1.5 inches to Santa Barbara’s coast. Gibraltar and Jameson reservoirs are above 100 percent full, and Twitchell Reservoir outside Santa Maria grew from 29 to 40 percent full in the past 24 hours, an addition of 22,000 acre-feet. (Each acre foot is 325,000 gallons of water.) Since Friday, Lake Cachuma rose by a foot — adding 2,098 acre-feet, or 6 million gallons — but is receiving less runoff than before. The release from the spillway, originally set for Saturday, is on hold at the moment, according to Bureau of Reclamation spokesperson Mary Lee Knecht, as they evaluate the current storm’s runoff.

In Carpinteria, the waste-water treatment plant is under threat from the eroding banks of Carpinteria Creek. The State Park began shoring up the rip-rap and rock along the creek on an emergency basis on Sunday, and the work is expected to take a week.

Carpinteria will also begin to see dump trucks bringing to its beaches the material accumulated from three debris basins during the year’s storms. More than 32 inches of rain have fallen in the hills behind Carpinteria since a month ago, and the Santa Monica, Gobernador, and Arroyo Paredon basins are fairly full of rock, gravel, and sand. As well as protecting the community, the debris basins are full of silt that would otherwise have gone down the creeks, according to County Public Works. Cobble and mineral sediments, which are to be tested for contaminants, are the prioritized materials for deposition on Carp’s beaches at Ash Avenue.

“The city believes that the most beneficial long-term debris basin sediment management program includes routine deposition of qualified mineral sediments on the shoreline that optimizes long-term cost-effectiveness, environmental benefits and public safety,” said Matt Roberts, Carp’s director of Parks, in a press release.

A wheel loader dumps mud at Goleta Beach Park
| Credit: Don Brubaker

Since January 11, Santa Barbara County has trucked stuff from the Montecito debris basins to Goleta Beach Park. An estimated 500,000 cubic yards of dirt, rock, trees, and brush are estimated to be in the basins, and the removal, sorting, contamination testing, and truckloads amount to about $50 million in costs.

For those hoping to shake off the stuck-at-home blues by going for a hike, landslides and erosion have destroyed the front-country trails at vulnerable spots up in the foothills and mountains, many have reported. The potential danger has Los Padres National Forest closing the Santa Barbara Ranger District for 60 days, as well as the Lucia, Ojai, and Monterey districts nearby. High winds and rains caused flooding, debris flows, and slope failures; bridges, roads, and trails are out; and both administrative buildings and recreational facilities are a mess, according to a press release on Friday. The forest supervisor, Chris Stubbs, said the closure was a precaution and a repair strategy was in motion: “I’m asking the public to heed the closure order while these recovery efforts are underway,” Stubbs said. “My intention is to reopen closed areas as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

A large crack was noticed at the cliff by Shoreline Park on Friday. | S.B.City Parks & Rec

[Update: Jan. 16, 2023, Noon]  The City of Goleta reports that Patterson Avenue is open again and the power poles replaced.

At Goleta Beach Park, the county closed the park as the area is overrun with skip loaders and dump trucks, bringing soil and rock from the debris basins in the foothills. Recreational bicyclists are asked to refrain from using the Obern Trail until the works ends, and the bikepath is open to bicycle commuters only.

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