Santa Barbara County works to secure areas impacted by Alisal Fire
A rainstorm bringing between one to two inches of rain is expected to hit Santa Barbara County over the weekend, and local officials are prepping for the threat of potential flood impacts near the burn scar of the Alisal Fire.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a storm to roll through Santa Barbara County from Sunday night through Monday that is expected to bring up to two inches of rain to the region. Rain is also possible earlier in the weekend, with the forecast predicting less than a tenth of an inch of precipitation in the North County on Friday and Saturday, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Ryan Kittell.
While rain during a drought would typically be welcomed on the Central Coast, local officials are keeping a close eye on the potential for flooding or debris flow in the areas freshly scorched by the Alisal Fire.
Fortunately, Mr. Kittell said the Weather Service does not expect this storm to produce “significant, damaging type debris flows.”
“We can’t rule it out, but more likely than not, any debris flows would be minor, shallow and more of what we call nuisance-type events as opposed to destructive,” Mr. Kittell told the News-Press. “Instead of taking down buildings and sweeping out campgrounds, it might impact roads and creeks. So those (would be) the type of impacts as opposed to destruction.”
To prepare for potential flooding and debris flow impacts during the weekend storm, county officials are working on Refugio Road and at the Tajiguas Landfill to mitigate potential flood impacts, according to Lael Wageneck, the public information officer for the Public Works Department.
“After a fire, these areas during rain are always suspect to flooding or debris flows, so we are making preparations for both currently at the landfill and along Refugio Creek by Refugio Road,” Mr. Wageneck told the News-Press.
Along Refugio Road, crews were on-site Wednesday to clear vegetation near Refugio Creek, Mr. Wageneck said. He noted that the bridge crossing on the road typically floods during rains, but officials are working to make sure water and material can flow easier and won’t get “choked up” at any point during the weekend storm.
Crews were also on-site at the Tajiguas Landfill on Wednesday working to install a concrete-reinforced berm that will divert debris flowing into the upper part of Pila Creek into a sedimentation basin. With the berm in place, sediment and debris will be diverted into the basin as opposed to following the creek’s normal path down to the ocean, Mr. Wageneck said.
These mitigation efforts are expected to be completed by Friday, ahead of Sunday’s storm, Mr. Wageneck said. He added that a crew from Raminha Construction is replacing damaged sections of the storm drain system at the landfill this week, and the work is expected to be completed by Sunday.
Santa Barbara city officials are also keeping watch on the weekend storm as the burn scar of the Loma Fire still looms large over Loma Alta Drive.
On Monday, officials closed a portion of Loma Alta Drive to vehicular traffic from now through June 1 to prepare for “storm-related impacts” after the Loma Fire, according to a news release from the city. The road is closed between Coronel and West Canon Perdido streets but remains open for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Earlier this week, crews installed about 600 feet of k-rail on Loma Alta Drive, which will help to catch any sediment or mud that flows from the hill during storm events, according to the city’s Streets Operations and Infrastructure Manager Jim Dewey.
Mr. Dewey told the News-Press on Wednesday that the city typically sees runoff from TV Hill during rain events.
He noted that if the city sees a major rain event, the sediment flow “won’t be significantly bigger” than the typical amount of runoff, adding that the k-rail recently installed will help catch mud and debris and keep it contained to the street.
“As far as anything that is like, a major debris flow, we’re not anticipating anything like that,” Mr. Dewey said. “Just in an abundance of caution we put out the k-rail rail, and that will contain any runoff we have on the road. So it is possible that we get some significant runoff that could affect the apartments below the area, just east of where the burn scar is, but that’s normal for those particular apartments — the apartments that are near Fremont Place.”
Officials are planning to hold a meeting next month to provide information to residents about planning for flood-related impacts on Loma Alta Drive. The meeting will be on Nov. 3 at the McKinley Elementary School Auditorium and starts at 7:30 p.m.
During this meeting, Mr. Dewey said officials plan to present a computer water runoff model that shows how various rain events could impact flooding and runoff conditions on Loma Alta Drive.
Ahead of this weekend’s storm, officials recommend residents visit readysbc.org/storm-ready for information on the best ways to protect their homes and prepare for potential flooding. A few of the tips for storm readiness include being prepared to leave before roads, creeks and waterways are flowing, considering installing sandbags, and having an emergency plan and disaster kit ready to go.
Residents can also sign up for emergency alerts by visiting readysbc.org.