Evacuation orders remain in place until this afternoon
Heavy downpours Saturday morning resulted in a full closure of Highway 101 in the Montecito area for much the day, as well flooded roadways and multiple downed trees throughout Santa Barbara County.
Just after 10 a.m. Saturday, as heavy rain fell, San Ysidro Creek overflowed and flooded the 101 in Montecito.
The freeway was shut down in both directions from Milpas Street in Santa Barbara to State Route 150 in Carpinteria, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Authorities were able to close the 101 before any motorists got stuck in rising water or mud and debris, Capt. Cindy Pontes, CHP spokeswoman, said during a press conference Saturday at the Sheriff’s Department headquarters in Goleta.
Southbound 101 was reopened around 4 p.m. and northbound lanes were opened several hours later.
Caltrans also closed State Route 154 near Lake Cachuma, but the length of that closure was unknown as of Saturday.
Multiple side streets in the South Coast also were shut down due to flooding, including Bella Vista Road at Romero Creek.
Highway offramps at Carrillo and Mission streets in Santa Barbara were inundated with water and were closed to traffic for a time Saturday.
At one point during the afternoon hours there were no drivable paths from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara via the 101, according to authorities.
State Route 1 south of Lompoc was closed in both directions for several hours after the roadway was inundated with boulders and water.
With local debris basins filled from earlier storms and more rainfall in the forecast overnight Saturday, Sheriff Bill Brown announced that evacuation orders for some 3,200 people who live near recent burn areas would remain in place until early this afternoon.
“For now, public safety risks remain and we do not feel it would be safe or prudent to repopulate the evacuated areas,” the sheriff said.
Six people stayed overnight Friday at the evacuation center set up at the Goleta Valley Community Center. Organizers said they were prepared to remain open as long as they were needed.
Cynthi Bacon posted a video of flash flood at Rancho La Casita near Lake Cachuma, showing massive amounts of water carrying large tree branches, mud and everything else in its path.
“After I filmed that little clip, I RAN away from that bank,” she wrote in a comment.
There were reports of several vehicles stuck under the Carrillo/101 underpass, prompting Anthony Wagner, spokesman for the Santa Barbara Police Department, to tweet “DO NOT DRIVE INTO STANDING OR MOVING WATER — it’s ALWAYS deeper than you think.”
A portion of De la Vina Street near Mission Street was closed for a time due to flooding. Authorities were called for reports of a water main break, but it turned out a nearby storm drain was clogged as water poured into several businesses nearby.
The Cajun Kitchen Merchant Services office, the Cat House Hotel and a nearby laundromat all experienced flooding as a result of the clogged drain.
“It’s a mess,” said Sharon Sutton, who owns the cat hotel. “It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had this, but it’s not atypical that this street will flood because if you look at it, over the years they’ve resurfaced (the road) so it has no curb.”
Ms. Sutton said she anticipated flooding Friday after looking at the forecast.
“It came in and then it came back out,” she said. “What a mess.”
Around 7 a.m., employees at the business began to relocate the cats as water moved in. As much as 2 inches of water filled the office building.
“We’ve never had it this bad,” Ms. Sutton told the News-Press.
When asked how the animals fared during the flooding, Ms. Sutton replied “Well, they didn’t volunteer to swim in it, I can tell you that.”
A portion of State Street at the 101 overpass was also closed for a time Saturday.
The Saturday morning downpour dropped more than 4 inches of rain in the foothills and mountains, with about 1 to 3 inches accumulating along the coast, said Mark Jackson, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Peak rainfall rates of 0.6 of an inch were recorded in 15 minutes, 0.8 in 30 minutes, and 1.09 in an hour over the Thomas Fire burn area. Refugio pass recorded 1.1 inches in 15 minutes, Mr. Jackson said.
Peak wind gusts of 84 mph were recorded in the Gaviota area. Several areas received gusts to 71 mph and sustained winds of more than 40 mph were recorded, he added.
“This was definitely a very strong storm,” Mr. Jackson said. “Probably the most intense storm we may see this season.”
Nearly 2,000 Southern California Edison customers were without power for a time Saturday. Hundreds of North County residents also lost power, according to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
Union Pacific Railroad reported the train tracks north of Ventura would be closed for the remainder of the day Saturday.
Downed trees were reported throughout the morning Saturday. Around 5:30 a.m., a eucalyptus tree fell onto the Isla Vista Foot Patrol building. Another eucalyptus toppled onto a two-story apartment complex on Bolton Walk in Goleta, and a large stone pine tree believed to be 100-years-old fell onto a Santa Barbara home during the powerful storm. Several massive trees went down at UCSB near campus dorms, including one that crushed a car parked nearby.
No injuries were reported, authorities said.
On Friday, local fire agencies increased staffing levels in anticipation of the storm, adding fire engines, bulldozers, excavators, helicopters, hand crews, an urban search and rescue team and a swift water rescue team, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
The National Guard also deployed five high-water vehicles to assist local authorities, Sheriff Brown said.
Also Friday, the county Flood Control District obtained permits from state and federal agencies to conduct debris disposals at three beach locations: Carpinteria Beach at Ash Avenue, Goleta Beach County Park and Butterfly Beach in Montecito.
Carpinteria Beach was the first location utilized. Depending on how much material was delivered county officials said the beach disposals may continue for two weeks, said Gina DePinto, county spokeswoman.
Officials collected sediment samples from each basin that will have material taken to the beach, and the collections will continue throughout the operation. Ocean water samples taken prior to disposal operations will be monitored by the county Public Health Department, Ms. DePinto said.
Santa Barbara City College canceled classes and all campus operations Saturday. The closure included La Playa Stadium, the track, Luria Library, and all offices on the college’s main, Wake and Schott campuses, said spokeswoman Luz Reyes-Martin.
The Montecito Water District conducted inspections after the storm passed and found no significant damage, officials said in a news release.
A flash flood watch in recent burn areas was in effect through early this morning and could be extended, Mr. Jackson said.
A coastal flood advisory was set to expire at 11 a.m. today and a high surf advisory will remain in effect until 11 a.m. Monday. Waves 4 to 8 feet are expected through today before subsiding to 2 to 4 feet by Monday afternoon.
Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services issued an ocean water use advisory to warn residents about health issues associated with storm water runoff, which carries the risk for certain types of illnesses that cause rashes, fever, chills, ear infections, vomiting and diarrhea.
The county advises people not to play in the ocean or creeks for at least three days after a rainstorm. Beachgoers should avoid discolored water, as this may indicate high pollutant levels.
Scattered showers continued throughout the day Saturday but were relatively light compared to the early morning downpours. Additional showers were expected overnight with rainfall rates reaching a half-inch per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
Showers were expected to continue through Tuesday morning. A 90 percent chance of precipitation is forecast for today, and an 80 percent chance of rain is forecast Monday. Coastal areas were expected to receive 1 inch of rain, with 2 to 3 inches expected in local mountains and higher elevations, weather officials said.
Drier conditions were expected Wednesday through Friday before another storm system moves through the area Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival was also affected by the storms. Actor Viggo Mortensen was presented the American Riviera Award Saturday afternoon, but the presentation of the Maltin Modern Master Award presented to Glenn Close was pushed back to 3 p.m. today, according to event organizers.
As Saturday’s press conference came to a close, Sheriff Brown took time to send condolences to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office following the death of Jeff Dye, a search and rescue team member who was killed on Interstate 5 near Pyramid Lake while assisting with a rollover crash.
As the search-and-rescue team were assisting in the crash a vehicle plowed through the scene. A total of 10 people were injured, including another search-and-rescue team member who suffered critical injuries.
“Our hearts go out to Jeff Dye’s family and friends and to our brothers and sisters at the Venutra County sheriff’s office,” Sheriff Brown said.