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Evacuation orders lifted as Santa Barbara County avoids major storm damage

Water rushes down Montecito Creek where mudslides hit in Santa Barbara County

Montecito Creek flows Wednesday morning, March 21, 2018, under East Valley Road in Montecito in Santa Barbara County. Nearby are homes that were destroyed in the deadly Jan. 9 mudslides.
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Montecito Creek flows Wednesday morning, March 21, 2018, under East Valley Road in Montecito in Santa Barbara County. Nearby are homes that were destroyed in the deadly Jan. 9 mudslides.

Evacuation orders were lifted for Santa Barbara County's South Coast on Thursday after a multi-day March storm soaked the region but caused no debris flows or major flooding.

Mandatory evacuation orders for communities below the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire burn areas, and the evacuation warning for the Alamo Fire burn area, were lifted at 5 p.m. Thursday, according to the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

All schools were planning to be open as usual Friday.

"For the most part the area has been spared, and very fortunately," National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Jackson said Thursday afternoon.

The storm was "on its last gasp" as of 4 p.m., though there was the possibility of more showers throughout the evening and into early Friday, he said.

See a CHP helicopter rescue a man and dog from a raging Salinas River in Paso Robles on Thursday, March 22, 2018, and hear from an eyewitness who saw a tent floating downstream with another person in it. 10 people total were rescued.

The additional rainfall was not expected to produce anything more than minor debris flows, Jackson added.

Debris basins and creek channels that were clogged in the Jan. 9 Montecito debris flows were cleared and able to handle the flow of rainfall this week, the county said.

High rainfall rates on the Gaviota Coast on Thursday afternoon prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Flash Flood Warning for the Whittier and Sherpa fire burn areas.

No major incidents were reported Thursday, although there was widespread roadway flooding and minor vehicle collisions.

Flooding Quarantina Street
Rainfall floods Quarantina Street in Santa Barbara, California, on Thursday, March 22, 2018 Santa Barbara City photo

County Public Works closed multiple roadways due to flooding, including Tepusquet Road from Santa Maria Mesa Road to Highway 166, and Refugio Road at Calle Real near Gaviota.

The Flash Flood Warning for the Whittier and Sherpa fire burn areas expired at 12:30 p.m. Thursday and the rest of Santa Barbara County was issued a Flash Flood Watch through 5 p.m.

Areas in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties set daily rainfall records Wednesday, including the Santa Barbara Airport with 1.87 inches of rain, but no debris flows were reported.

Evacuation orders impacted about 21,000 people living in communities below the burn areas in Santa Barbara County.

This year's California fire season was especially harsh, which can lead to dangerous flooding when rain comes in. Here's how to prepare.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNewsand @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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