Major Evacuations Ordered as ‘Strongest Storm of the Season’ Approaches California

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown speaks during a news conference on Monday.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown speaks during a news conference on Monday. Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department / Twitter

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Heavy rain is expected to fall on areas burned by recent wildfires, increasing the risk for deadly mudslides and destructive debris flows.

Areas in two Southern California counties impacted by recent wildfires were put under evacuation orders on Monday ahead of a major storm that’s expected to dump significant amounts of rain on the region this week and could trigger mudslides and debris flows similar to the one that killed 21 people in the coastal community of Montecito on Jan. 9.

Those massive mudflows started in areas burned in December by the Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in California state history, and moved down from the mountains and through neighborhoods and across U.S. Highway 101, closing the important coastal route between Santa Barbara and the Los Angeles area.

The evacuations cover parts of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

The National Weather Service tweeted Monday evening that the “strongest storm of the season will bring a high risk of flash flooding and debris flows in recent burn areas.” Some areas could see between 5 and 10 inches of rain from the storm system.

In Santa Barbara County, this is what the mandatory evacuation zone looks like for the area of the Thomas Fire as of Monday night, including areas in and near Montecito and Carpinteria:

(Map via Santa Barbara County / Esri)

In Ventura County, there are voluntary and mandatory evacuations for areas vulnerable to mudslides:

(Map via Ventura County / Esri)

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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