Heavy rainfall and extensive flooding disrupted services and travel on Monday, with inclement weather expected to continue through Tuesday morning.
The storms have swept through California. Today, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration including 17 counties in California, authorizing federal support in relief efforts.
Congressmen Salud Carbajal and Jimmy Panetta, representing Santa Barbara County and the Central Coast, requested that Biden amend his original declaration to include Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
Santa Barbara County officials issued updates on evacuation orders, weather information and emergency guidelines at 4 p.m. today at a press conference.
The ongoing storm is a rapidly evolving situation. The most up-to-date emergency information and a storm incident map can be found at readysbc.org. Residents may use the search tool on the map to determine whether their home or business is under evacuation or protective orders.
An evacuation center is available for those in need at the Santa Barbara City College Wake Campus located at 300 N. Turnpike Road, Santa Barbara.
The American Red Cross Pacific Coast Chapter opened five evacuation shelters due to flooding throughout San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The centers are providing safe shelter, water, meals, emotional support, health services and additional resources to displaced evacuees.
Eric Boldt, warning coordination meteorologist for National Weather Service (NWS) in Oxnard, said at the press conference that today’s intense rains have produced five to seven inches of rain in the foothill communities, and two inches of rain in areas closest to the coast.
Around 4 p.m. Monday, rainfall intensities increased to about 1.25 inches per hour, a level at which flash flooding may occur.
“We’re looking at rainfall totals approaching a foot of rain in the foothill and mountain areas above us, so a lot of runoff, a lot of dangerous flash flooding potential with this system,” Boldt said. “There’s also high winds, so if we get more and more saturation, there’s more likely tree damage and power outages, so stay inside if you can. Be safe.”
High gusts of wind measuring 30 to 50 mph along the coast and between 50 to 60 mph in the mountains and foothills are also possible, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.
NWS anticipates a lull in storm activity this evening, followed by a second wave of “unstable air,” heavy showers and thunderstorms late Monday night and Tuesday morning, according to Boldt.
Flood Warning and Evacuation Orders
NWS issued a countywide flash flood warning for Santa Barbara, effective until 12:00 a.m. PST due to “dangerous and life-threatening” travel conditions. NWS warned individuals not to travel unless they are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order.
“We’re in the midst of a series of significant and powerful storms,” Brown said. “This widespread event is already causing some flooding and rock and mudslides across our county.”
Evacuation orders have been issued for the entire community of Montecito and for the Serena Park area in Carpinteria, with instructions to leave now until further notice.
Santa Barbara City Fire Department additionally issued an immediate evacuation order for Conejo Road and Sycamore Creek properties.
Deputies from the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office (SBSO) and Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue are engaged in door-to-door notifications in evacuation order zones, Brown said.
A shelter in place remains in effect for county residents close to the Alisal and Cave fire burn area, as well as residents of the Lower Eastside/Riviera area in the city of Santa Barbara.
Brown said that with the flash flood warning in place, the county does not want residents attempting to leave unless an immediate evacuation order for their locality is in effect.
“We want you to wait until notified that the flash flood warning is terminated, and we don’t want you leaving at this exact moment,” Brown said.
Beach access along Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista is currently impacted by the storm. The beachfront stairway at the Camino Pescadero Park was compromised and closed off by county officials, Community Engagement Director for the Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) Sydney Castañeda confirmed to the Nexus.
The other beach access points in Isla Vista have been marked off with signage advising individuals to stay off the beach at this time due to dangerous conditions.
Highway Closures and Travel Service Disruption
The following routes along Highway 101 are closed due to flooding and dangerous conditions: Northbound 101 closed at the 33 exit through Santa Claus Lane, Northbound 101 closed at Winchester Canyon Road and Southbound 101 closed at Milpas.
In addition, flooding should be expected through Jan. 10 along sections of Northbound 101 throughout Summerland and Montecito with intermittent road disruptions and closures at on- and off-ramps.
Highway 154 is currently closed in both directions.
Santa Barbara County reported that the Santa Barbara Airport is closed due to flooding in the area. With the closure, all commercial flights are canceled until further notice.
Santa Barbara MTD suspended its bus services as of 6 p.m. on Monday due to weather conditions and under guidance of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management (SBCOEM). Services are expected to resume around 12 p.m. on Jan. 10, according to MTD.
The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train route between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo is suspended in both directions until Wednesday, Amtrak announced today.
The weather also delayed SpaceX’s planned orbital launch of a Falcon 9 rocket that was set to take off from Santa Barbara County today, a satellite mission — now set for tomorrow at the earliest — the company confirmed.
Power and Internet Outages
Almost 1,500 households are without power in Santa Barbara County, according to an unofficial online tracker.
Cox Communications, the primary internet provider for Isla Vista homes, alerted its customers that they may experience disruptions.
“Due to inclement weather, many of our customers are experiencing service interruptions. While we realize this can be frustrating, please know our teams remain committed and are currently working to restore service(s) as soon as possible,” the network provider said in a weather alert.
Castañeda said that Cox Communications has not notified IVCSD of any planned or expected outages.
UC Santa Barbara announced that classes are canceled for today and tomorrow.
Chancellor Henry T. Yang said in a Jan. 9 campus community email that the decision was made in consultation with student leadership, Academic Senate Chair, Student Affairs and university administrators.
“While the campus remains open and operational, circumstances around road closures and community evacuations have made it challenging to get to and from campus,” Yang said in the email.
Yang said that supervisors should “exercise maximum flexibility” toward staff seeking to work remotely. In addition, campus events scheduled for Jan. 9 and 10 may still go forward as planned, unless otherwise notified by event organizers.
All public schools within Santa Barbara County are closed tomorrow Jan. 10, confirmed by SBCOEM.
“Outside of an evacuation order, decisions about school closures are made on a school-by-school basis. Families in private schools should look for updates from their individual schools,” SBCOEM said on its website.