Mudslide Fears Prompt Mandatory Evacuations for Montecito, Other Burn Areas

Boulders and mud stand in front of a home that was destroyed by a mudslide on January 11, 2018 in Montecito. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Authorities have issued a mandatory evacuation order for areas impacted by the recent wildfires and mudslides in Santa Barbara County.

County emergency officials said residents near the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fire burn areas should evacuate by 6:00 p.m. Thursday because of an approaching winter storm that is expected to dump up to 3 inches of rain overnight.

Officials fear the storm could trigger another round of mudslides and debris flows in communities still recovering from the devastating mudslides in January -- though perhaps not as severe.

"Compared to the last event where we had very, very, very heavy rain in like a five-, 10-minute period, we're not really expecting the really heavy, quick intense rainfall, but I would say there's definitely a chance there'll be some issues in that Montecito area," said Curt Kaplan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

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The order includes Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria. You can see a map of debris flow risk areas here.

A map showing extreme and high debris flow and flooding risk areas ahead of Thursday's approaching storm.
A map showing extreme and high debris flow and flooding risk areas ahead of Thursday's approaching storm. (EarthStar Geographics)

Crews have been working nonstop to clear debris basins that were overloaded back in January, hoping they will be able to handle the latest deluge, according to Santa Barbara City Fire Department spokeswoman Amber Anderson.

"They're not 100 percent clean," Anderson told KPCC. "We wish they were, but that takes a tremendous amount of time and work, so only time will tell to see how those have held, because as we saw before, this thing can move very quickly and changes are expected and anticipated."

The most intense and steady rain should fall between midnight and 8:00 a.m. Friday, according to the weather service.

In Los Angeles County, a flash flood watch will go into effect late Thursday in areas near the Creek and La Tuna fire burn areas.

Rain could also affect the morning commute.