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State and local agencies working together to prepare for powerful incoming storm

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Posted at 10:45 PM, Jan 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-04 03:05:51-05

People across California are bracing for a major storm that could bring widespread flooding and power outages.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services says they are bracing for possible flooding during the upcoming storm from Southern California all the way north to the Oregon border.

“This is a statewide threat. We are concerned in the south--places like the L.A. River where we have the big homeless population that could be impacted all the way up to Siskiyou County where we’ve had fires and there are burn scars,” said Brian Ferguson, Deputy Director of Crisis Communication and Public Affairs at Cal OES.

the powerful storm off the coast of California could bring heavy rain to already saturated ground, including parts of Northern California that are still reeling from recent widespread flooding.

“Either 2017 or 2005 were probably the last times we saw weather patterns like this,” said Ferguson.

Cal OES has pre-positioned resources across California, including four million sandbags and 400,000 tons of rock to shore up levees.

“It’s a really complex emergency and we’re really trying to throw everything we have at it early to try to keep the public safe,” explained Ferguson.

Emergency officials in Santa Barbara County are urging people to prepare and plan for the storm by stocking up on sandbags and staying home if possible.

“The flooding is expected to be countywide with some of the most significant impacts being in south county,” said Kelly Hubbard, Director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department says they are prepared to respond to car accidents and even ocean and swift water rescues.

“We advise that people stay away from the creeks, stay away from the rivers. It can be exciting to watch but the soil saturation can cause that ground to give way and people fall into the creek,” said Public Information Officer Scott Safechuck.

Heavy rain will also bring the threat of mudslides to the Alisal Fire burn scar.

To the south, officials are keeping a close eye on the steep mountainsides above Santa Barbara and Montecito.

“We’re not seeing a lot of debris or material coming off of the mountain. As we speak, all of the creeks are running clear which is a really good sign,” said Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor in an interview with KSBY on Tuesday afternoon.

Chief Taylor adds that the mudslide threat is much lower now that five years have passed since the previous slides.

“The majority of the watershed is almost completely restored. In other words, almost 100 percent back to where it was before the Thomas Fire,” he explained. “I can tell you that with all this rain we’ve received thus far that the watershed and the flood control systems have performed magnificently.”

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department plans to increase staffing levels but will finalize the details once they get a clearer picture of the storm at around noon on Wednesday.