There is no end in sight for the closure of Highway 154 near Lake Cachuma as the roadway remains covered with mud and debris from a nearby culvert blockage.
The recent storms that started Thursday morning and continued throughout this past weekend led to debris and trees from the Whittier Fire burn areas to flow into the culvert and block it, said Jim Shivers, Caltrans public information officer.
The culvert’s water level rose to the level of the highway, eventually spilling over onto the roadway. The highway between Santa Barbara and the junction with State Route 246 closed down at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Mr. Shivers told the News-Press that the highest priority now for Caltrans crews is clearing the culvert’s opening, which is currently beneath 35 feet of water and debris. How long this and the clearing of the highway will take remains unknown.
“We don’t have a particular date in mind for when we might open that section of highway,” Mr. Shivers said.
How fast Highway 154 reopens is largely dependent on weather conditions, particularly how long the rain continues.
Mr. Shivers said a break in the rain will keep further debris flows at bay and “give us a chance to dig out and restore the roadway as quick as we can.”
As of Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service in Oxnard, the city of Santa Barbara has received 6.02 inches of rain since the storms began Thursday; 3.81 inches were recorded at the Santa Barbara Airport, 6.01 inches in the Montecito hills, 8.62 inches at RefugioPass and 9.87 inches at San Marcos Pass.
Today, Santa Barbara is expected to receive between a quarter and a half-inch of rain through scattered showers that will linger into Wednesday morning.
After a dry Thursday, another storm may arrive Friday and rain could continue throughout the weekend.
Residents should use Highway 101 as a detour for Highway 154.