Following forecasts of heavy rain in Santa Barbara County and across California, UC Santa Barbara Student Affairs sent an email to the campus community today on how to exercise caution near Isla Vista cliffs. Santa Barbara County issued mandatory evacuations in burn areas of southern Santa Barbara County shortly after, starting at 3 p.m. today.
Evacuated areas in the county include vulnerable sections of the Thomas Fire Burn Scar, the entire Alisal Fire Burn Scar and vulnerable sections of the Cave Fire Burn Scar. The evacuation order will continue until it is deemed safe by the county for civilians to return home.
Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency today in response to the winter storms sweeping through California. The proclamation includes authorization to mobilize the California National Guard for disaster response, the direction of the California Department of Transportation to request immediate assistance for highway repairs, among others.
Citing a 2017 incident where 10 feet of a cliff balcony partially collapsed into the ocean, the email warned students to stay off balconies and away from the edge of bluffs during and after a storm, as such weather can destabilize the bluffs and cause rocks to loosen.
The university advised caution when on the beach and to avoid walking under the bluffs altogether, warning students to stay at least one and a half times the cliff’s height away while on the sand.
UCSB Student Affairs also advised students who are planning visits to the beach to only go during low tide following a storm.
“High tide and large swells will push the tide line closer to the cliffs. Rock falls and slides can happen at any time,” the email stated.
Balcony and cliff safety in Isla Vista has been an ongoing discussion amongst the community, with several individuals falling from the cliffs along Del Playa Drive over the last two decades — leading to at least five deaths. As the bluffs retreat at about six inches every year — according to property line surveys conducted by the county — the Isla Vista cliffside has long posed a safety risk to Isla Vistans.
“In years past, we have seen coastal storms destroy parts of the cliffs so please exercise caution,” UCSB Student Affairs stated in the email.
The UCSB community is encouraged to report any witnessed erosion and rock falls to the County of Santa Barbara public works.