Recommended Evacuation Warning for South Coast extended as timin - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Recommended Evacuation Warning for South Coast extended as timing of storm pushed back

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Santa Barbara County emergency officials are, for now, holding off on issuing a Mandatory Evacuation Order for South Coast areas that could potentially be affected by mud and debris flows as a result of a late week storm system.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown says, because the storm is now estimated to make landfall later in the day on Thursday than originally forecast and there has been a slight downgrade in the level of the storm's intensity, the Recommended Evacuation Warning currently in place will be extended. 

That Recommended Evacuation Warning is in place for residents in the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fire burn areas. 

Sheriff Brown says emergency officials are waiting for two more updates from the National Weather Service before making a final decision on whether to issue a Mandatory Evacuation Order. 

NWS Meteorologist Eric Boldt says three to four hours of heavy rain are expected after midnight Thursday with up to a quarter-inch of rain per hour expected near the beach and a third to a half-inch per hour near the mountaintops. He says a half-inch per hour of rain could trigger debris flows.

"This will be a minor league storm, not a major league storm like we saw back on Jan. 9, but we have to be careful because minor leaguers can hit it out of the park sometimes," Boldt said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

Brown says a half-inch per hour of rain is right on the cusp when it comes to the decision whether to order mandatory evacuations. He says if the storm stays at its current predicted level or intensifies, a Mandatory Evacuation Order will likely be ordered.

Montecito Fire Protection District Division Chief Kevin Taylor says the Local Incident Management Team will be activated at 8 a.m. on Thursday to manage the resources that will respond to any mud and debris flows that may occur. Among those resources is a Cal OES water rescue team. 

Taylor says resources will be prepositioned around the South Coast to respond to any emergencies.

Highway 101 remains open for now, as well, and the California Highway Patrol says it will remain open until it's absolutely necessary to close it. According to Capt. Cindy Pontes, that would happen right before the most intense part of the storm hits, after a Mandatory Evacuation Order has been put in place and people have had an opportunity to evacuate.

Santa Barbara County emergency officials are urging all residents to sign up for Aware and Prepare Alerts and continue to monitor the storm and heed all evacuation warnings and orders.

"It's very important for you to be aware of the situation and what is asked of you and that you follow instructions if an evacuation decision is made," Brown said. "Our intention is to make sure that you are prepared and that you have a plan and that you are safe."

Related coverage:
Red Cross shelter opens at noon for Santa Barbara County storm evacuees
Montecito students to attend other schools during storm

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