Flash Flood Watch canceled, search and rescue crews staged aroun - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Flash Flood Watch canceled, search and rescue crews staged around Montecito released

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The National Weather Service has canceled a Flash Flood Watch for the Thomas, Whittier, Sherpa, and Alamo fire burn areas.

The storm, which was at one point forecast to drop up to .70 inches of rain per hour, is now expected to drop less than .25 inches of rain per hour. As a result, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office lifted mandatory evacuation orders for those burn areas.

That meant emergency and rescue crews staged around Montecito and Carpinteria could also leave.

Shortly before what was expected to be the most intense rainfall, crews set up in areas that could potentially see debris flows.

KSBY reporter Megan Abundis encountered one group of search and rescue officials setting up in the Montecito area. They said their focus would be on the area from Olive Mill Road east to the San Ysidro Creek area. Another crew was reportedly staged east of San Ysidro and another in the Carpinteria area.

"On 1-9, one of the issues that came up was the debris flows that went over the bridges and blocked the roads," explained Nelson Trichler, Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue Incident Commander. "So there were many parts of Montecito that were isolated and rescue units had a difficult time getting into those areas, so what we wanted to do is have pre-deployment staged in this area so that, should they become isolated again, we have units within those areas to respond to help out."

The group was equipped with a Lenco Bearcat that can get into areas that other vehicles cannot and can reach people who need rescue from second story windows. Santa Barbara County Sheriff's officials say the vehicles were a big help on Jan. 9 when mud and debris swept through the Montecito area, destroying homes, leaving many people stranded, and taking nearly two dozen lives.

Trichler added that sheriff's officials began notifying residents of the mandatory evacuation orders starting at around 7 p.m. on Monday and finished knocking on doors at around 1 a.m. He said most people they encountered decided to stay and ride out the storm at home.

"The majority of the people opted to continue to stay," said Trichler. "I think it's pretty well known that a lot of people are getting tired of evacuations even though the threat is there... If they had already evacuated, then our need to be staging, there would not be a need."

Next, first responders will hold a debrief to discuss what went well and what can be improved when the next storm arrives.

"Because this won't be the last storm," said Sgt. Joe Schmidt, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office. "We're prepared to have this for any future storms."

"The question is, are the debris basins cleared enough to handle a debris flow from the canyons?" said Trichler. "There are still thousands of boulders that could come down in a debris flow."

WEB EXTRA: KSBY reporter Megan Abundis chats with rescue crews and gets a look inside the Bearcat:


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