Santa Barbara County orders mandatory evacuations amid ‘high’ threat of rock falls and mudslides

Crews work to clear debris from the closed 101 Freeway at Olive Mill Road in Montecito after a powerful storm on Jan. 9.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Residents in Santa Barbara County were ordered to evacuate — for the third time this month — ahead of a powerful storm that’s expected to drench Southern California starting Tuesday night.

Those who live below mountains ravaged by the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fires must be out of their homes by noon Tuesday. To see if your home is included, check the county’s interactive map.

Authorities said the storm is expected to drop 5 to 10 inches of rain in the foothills and mountains, “significantly” more total rainfall than on Jan. 9, when mudslides swept through Montecito, killing 21 people and destroying homes. That day, the storm brought 3 to 6 inches of rain to the region.

Forecasters expect a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch of rain an hour, which is enough to trigger debris flows and flash floods.


An evacuation center will be opened at Earl Warren Showgrounds, Warren Hall at 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara. For help evacuating large and small animals, call the Santa Barbara County Animal Services hotline at (805) 681-4332.

Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, said in a statement the storm could be intense enough to cause flooding even without the recent fires.

“We could experience localized flooding and road closures which are not isolated to the burn areas,” Lewin said. “The threat of rock falls, mud slides and debris flow is high.”

Twitter: @AleneTchek