The already saturated Santa Barbara County received even more rain over the weekend.
Mark Hartwig, chief of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, noted that as much debris as possible was removed from the debris basins in advance of the rain. He also said state funding assisted with the storm-related costs.
One challenge was the short period between the Jan. 9-10 storm and the less severe one that struck over the weekend.
“Our preference would have been to clear the debris basins and fix all the roads” before additional rain fell, Chief Hartwig told the News-Press on Saturday. “In this case, we have a lot of damage.”
He said as the rain permitted, crews worked on fixing damage from the last storm and preparing for the next storm. “We are in the middle of fixing and recovering.”
Chief Hartwig noted a long range dry period begins today, which is typical for Santa Barbara County.
On Thursday, a California National Guard unit from Chico arrived in Montecito to process debris basin material at the new Randall Road Debris Basin. The National Guard worked around the clock to remove the debris in advance of future winter storms, and Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed his gratitude during a news conference Friday at the basin.
“Each member of the National Guard that has been deployed to the Randall Road Debris Basin has left their family and homes so they can help us protect ours,” said 1st District Supervisor Das Williams. “I want to thank every one of them for their service and helping keep residents and visitors to the Montecito community safe.”
Chief Hartwig said the debris basins last week did what they were supposed to do. “Seeing the debris basins do their job is impressive, but when they are full, they are much less effective.”
Chief Hartwig said that during the Jan. 9-10 storm, there were six hoist-by-air rescues and more than 400 water-related calls for service.
“The (fire) departments work together from Carpinteria to Santa Maria,” he said. “We have an all-hazard incident management team designed to take everybody from every department and law enforcement and form a multidisciplinary, jurisdictional plan and execution, which is rare. I haven’t seen that coming from a much larger county. We have a Unified Command Group with all the chiefs. …
“I always say we hope you don’t need our full capability of rescue, but we are ready from Carpinteria to Santa Maria.”
During last weekend’s storm, Santa Barbara County operated emergency shelters where people could stay overnight if necessary: the Red Cross center at Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall in Solvang and the Wake Center in Santa Barbara. There were also local assistance centers in Orcutt and Guadalupe.
And on Friday, Los Padres National Forest closed. The park is scheduled to remain closed for until noon March 14 “to provide for public health and safety,” according to a news release.