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‘This is not any kind of storm to mess with,’ OES director says of Tuesday’s storm

Posted at 1:50 PM, Jan 15, 2019

Brooke Martell KSBY is live with Rob Lewin who is with Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

Posted by KSBY on Tuesday, 15 January 2019


Mandatory evacuations go into effect near Santa Barbara County burn areas beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management Director Rob Lewin says this is “not any kind of storm to mess with. People need to evacuate.”

In 2017, evacuations were in place for the Thomas Fire and then again at the start of 2018 for the deadly 1/9 debris flow. Lewin says following that, there were three other evacuations issued during storms, although there was no significant damage.

Lewin says while rain rates for Tuesday’s storm are not forecasted to be as high as they were the day before the Jan. 9, 2018 mudslide, there is a potential for thunderstorms and unstable air, which can drive up rain rates.

In that case, county officials are given very short notice from the National Weather Service and have less time to get people out if necessary.

A flash flood watch is in effect for the Whittier, Sherpa and Thomas Fire burn areas in Santa Barbara County, along with the Hill Fire burn area in Ventura County throughout the day Tuesday.

While Lewin calls the 1/9 debris flow extreme, “Even a debris flow at a lower level could still cause destruction and could still be harmful and even deadly,” Lewin said.

Montecito as the sun came up Tuesday morning. (KSBY photo)
Montecito as the sun came up Tuesday morning. (KSBY photo)


Tuesday morning, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office had personnel going door-to-door in the evacuation areas working to notify the 3,600 residents impacted by the evacuations of the dangers associated with staying behind.

“People need to pay attention right now,” Lewin said.

The County launched its “Ready! Set! Go!” Wildifire Education Campaign nearly 10 years ago. Lewin said Tuesday the county is currently in the “go” phase, meaning people need to leave early when directed by public safety officials.

While the county says road control points will be limited, evacuated areas will be closed, even if barricades are not up.

Law enforcement will be patrolling the areas to enforce the closures and will question anyone found within the closure.

Lewin said it is currently unknown when evacuations will be lifted. The storm is expected to be the strongest Tuesday morning through Tuesday evening. Lewin said if it is determined it is safe for people to return home, there is a chance evacuations could be issued again Wednesday before another system arrives Wednesday night into Thursday morning.


County officials are meeting again Tuesday afternoon with the National Weather Service to get updates on that storm and what is expected.

“I just want to reiterate that in no way are we calling for an evacuation unnecessarily,” Lewin said. “It is important that people abide by this evacuation order. It’s done for all the reasons that are necessary to keep people out of harm’s way.”

The California Highway Patrol says Highway 101 will remain upon as long as there is no threat to public safety.

For the latest on the storm, stay with KSBY and throughout the day.

For more on Tuesday’s evacuation order or to sign up for Aware and Prepare Alerts, click here.