Sinkhole forms on The Riviera as large tree uprooted downtown
A storm that could drop 5 inches of rain on recent burn scars prompted Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown on Friday to order about 3,200 people out of their homes — and he says they should prepare to be away for at least two days.
At sheriff’s headquarters on Friday, the sheriff said this latest storm, which was expected to continue today, “could potentially be the largest storm of the season.”
The National Weather Service says 1½ to 3 inches of rain is possible in coastal and valley areas; 4 to 7 inches across south facing foothills and mountains.
High winds and rainfall rates forecast to top the debris-flow threshold also factored in to the order for residents and businesses to leave the Thomas/Whittier/Sherpa burn scar areas by 8 p.m. Friday.A map showing the affected area can be found atreadysbc.org.
“A lot of water is going to be dropped in our county, particularly in the areas aroundSanta Barbara and Montecito,” the sheriff said.
“Likely, I think, people should be prepared for two days to be away.”
“This has the potential to drop up to 5 or 6 inches of rain just overnight in the area above Montecito, which is the biggest concern,” Sheriff Brown said.
An evacuation center was opened Friday night at the Goleta Valley Community Center. Information boards were set up to keep evacuees informed in a safe and warm place to stay dry, offering anything from a cup of coffee to a smile or hug, said Kurt Russell, disaster program manager for the American Red Cross Chapter.
Visit Santa Barbara compiled a list of hotels offering special rates on rooms for those affected by the evacuations. To view the list, visitsantabarbaraca.com/evacuees.
The National Weather Service said following moderate “pre-frontal rainfall” Friday night, the heaviest rain from the strong Pacific storm is expected today, with rainfall rates of one-half to 1 inch common, and up to 1¼ inch across south facing foothills and coastal slopes.
Tonight could bring even more heavy downpours.
A flash flood watch in the burn areas was in effect through late tonight.Compounding the heavy rain will be high winds, the weather service noting “very strong and damaging southerly winds” are likely across many portions ofSouthwest California.
“This has the potential to be one of the strongest southerly wind events in recent years associated with a storm system,” the agency said in a statement. “The strongest winds with this event are expected to be across the mountains where damaging wind gusts up to 80 mph are likely.”
A high wind warning is in effect through 3 p.m.
If the forecast holds, this wind event would beat that of Jan. 14, when Santa Barbara was hit by winds of just under 60 mph at the beach.
This storm also prompted a beach hazards advisory through 9 a.m. Monday, with elevated surf and dangerous rip currents possible.
Surf of 3 to 6 feet is expected on southwest- and west-facing beaches through this evening. It may build to 4 to 8 feet on exposed west-facing beaches late tonight and Sunday. Surf will subside slowly Sunday night and early Monday.
A storm Thursday that brought widespread rainfall of 1 to 2 inches across the region (2½ inches across the foothills and coastal slopes of Ventura and southern Santa Barbara counties) may end up looking small compared to what’s forecast by day’s end.
That storm deposited a significant amount of rock, mud and debris into debris basins above Montecito. The county Flood Control District worked quickly to clear the basins, using upland disposal sites and local beaches. County officials obtained permits from state and federal agencies prior to beach disposal operations, which allow for sediment disposal at Carpinteria Beach at Ash Avenue, Goleta Beach County Park and Butterfly Beach in Montecito, Gina DePinto, county spokeswoman, said in a news release.
Disposals at Carpinteria Beach were expected to begin today and may continue for two weeks. Officials have 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.
Thursday’s storm toppled a nearly 50-foot ficus tree on Canon Perdido Streetsometime before dawn Friday. The city-owned 45- to 50-year-old Indian laurel, aka ficus, fell onto a wall of the parking lot behind a Bank of America branch, damaging a light pole.
No cars were around.
A city crew was dispatched to cut it up and run it through a chipper.
Why it fell is not immediately clear. Unlike Jan. 14, when unprecedented winds toppled several trees, including a 50-foot pine on De la Vina Street, the air was still overnight Thursday and the rain had stopped.
Even the root ball of the ficus appeared healthy, according to one of the workers.
Across town on Alameda Padre Serra, a sandstone box culvert spanning a creek appears to have collapsed, causing a sinkhole near Arguello Road.The 10-by-10-foot dip showed up on Thursday and the area had been marked for repair.
But as cars continued to drive on it, the damage spread.
Firefighters crawled into the creek to peer inside the culvert and found signs of a collapse. A nearby homeowner reported seeing water running across the roadway on Thursday, and more gushing from a spot beyond where it should have been, had the culvert been doing its job.
“Right now, we’re just going to put a metal plate over it to see if we can make it through the weekend with the little storm we’re expecting,” Jeff Brent, Santa Barbara’s street maintenance supervisor, told the News-Press.
Asked to estimate the culvert’s age, Mr. Brent said, “Older than time.”It’s possible, he said later, that it’s about 100 years old, adding that Santa Barbara has many such drainage facilities.
As for repairs, Mr. Brent said, “We’re going to try to make it through the weekend, at least get past the storm and then see what we can do at that time.”
Sheriff Brown stressed the decision to ask people to leave is not made lightly.
“We know it’s a huge inconvenience, there’s an economic impact to businesses,” he said. “Of all the weekends for this to happen, there’s the film festival going on in town and a lot of people from out of town are staying here for that.
“But there’s enough concern for life and public safety, that the entire decision making team came to the same conclusion,” he said.
Staff Writer Mitchell White contributed to this report