Mandatory evacuations ordered as storm threatens Santa Barbara County

With another storm expected to douse Santa Barbara County early Tuesday, emergency officials have issued mandatory evacuation orders for some communities below recent burn areas.

The mandatory orders, which begin at 8 p.m. Monday, will be in effect for areas the county has identified as being at “extreme high risk” for dangerous debris flows. In a news conference on Monday afternoon, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said between 2,100 and 2,200 homes are in the mandatory zone.

Areas identified as “high risk” will be under a “recommended evacuation warning.”

Communities affected are near the Thomas, Whittier, Sherpa and Alamo fire burn areas.

In a press conference on Monday, officials said the storm was expected to hit at about 7 a.m. Tuesday and pass through the area by about 1 p.m.

"If all goes well and there are no major debris flows, we hope to lift the order shortly after 1 p.m.," Brown said.

He emphasized that the coming storm would be more severe than the storm that hit the area last weekend.

"On a call today from the National Weather Service, there is no equivocation," Brown said. "This storm, they anticipate to be more intense than the previous storm and they indicated this storm has the potential for thunderstorm activity."

Depending on the severity of the storm, officials could close Highway 101, according to Capt. Cindy Pontes of the Santa Barbara division of the California Highway Patrol.

"The storm is scheduled to arrive during the morning commute, and we ask everyone to stay out of the area in case the storm does cause debris flows that require us to close the 101," Pontes said.

She asked employers to be flexible with employees' schedules and emphasized that officials could close Highway 101 at any point and with no notice if they believe lives are in danger. "We do not want anyone caught in a debris flow on the freeway."

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for the Central Coast in effect from Tuesday morning through Tuesday afternoon. The agency predicts that rainfall amounts could reach up to 0.70 inches per hour, especially in the higher elevations of southern Santa Barbara County.

"The meteorologist made it very clear he was a lot more concerned about this one than the last one," Brown said.

Residents can view an online map to determine if their properties are in either risk zone.

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF

Click here for the Ready Santa Barbara County website.

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