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Authorities recommend evacuations in parts of Santa Barbara County ahead of storm

Authorities recommend evacuations in parts of Santa Barbara County ahead of storm
Authorities are recommending evacuations in Santa Barbara County ahead of a winter storm expected to hit the area, which is still recovering from deadly mudslides in Montecito last month. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Authorities are urging residents to evacuate in parts of Santa Barbara County ahead of a winter storm expected to hit the area Thursday.

The Sheriff's Office recommended that residents in parts of Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria evacuate starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The county has created an interactive map that shows which neighborhoods are most at risk.

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"This is giving them more than enough warning to begin to prepare," said Terri Nisich, a county spokeswoman. "Those with access and functional needs, people that need more time leaving an area, [should] begin to move."

Forecasters predict that the storm will dump a one-third to two-thirds of an inch of rain per hour at certain points through Friday, which could be enough to trigger mud and debris flows near burn areas.

The heaviest rain is expected over the mountains behind Montecito and Santa Barbara, said Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

"It's a very moist system and unfortunately it really goes right over" the Thomas fire burn scar, Hoxsie said.

Residents who live near and below mountains burned by the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fires are "strongly recommended to relocate to safer locations for their own safety," the county said in an advisory issued Tuesday. "High risk for loss of life and property exists."

Officials also urged residents to monitor the county's website for updates and sign up for the county's Aware and Prepare emergency alert system. They said they would provide more details on evacuations Wednesday evening. If authorities order mandatory evacuations, residents must leave designated areas by 9 a.m. Thursday.

"As long as all the weather forecasts continue to indicate that we will have more than a half-inch of rain in that one-hour period, we will continue to move that way," Nisich said.

Residents can pick up to 25 unfilled sandbags from the following locations, but authorities ask that you call for current availability:

  • Santa Barbara Flood Control Shop at 4568 County Road in Goleta; (805) 568-3440

  • Lower Manning Park at 449 San Ysidro Road in Montecito; (805) 969-7762

The community is still recovering from destructive mudslides that on Jan. 9 sent a torrent of mud and boulders sweeping through neighborhoods, destroying homes and killing 21 people. Two others are still missing.

Officials announced this month that they will no longer use "voluntary" in their evacuation alerts after concerns that the warnings they pushed out before the deadly storm were ineffective in getting people to leave.

Twitter: @AleneTchek

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