A trio of storm systems is expected to make for a wet week throughout Santa Barbara County.
After light rain Monday and Tuesday, another storm is predicted for Wednesday into Thursday, which was anticipated to be followed by a third storm Friday into Saturday.
With so much rain being forecast, county officials are continuing to monitor the systems and prepare for potential evacuations, particularly within the recent burn areas.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office issued evacuation orders for residents living near the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fire burn areas Monday, but those orders were lifted Tuesday morning. Critical rain rates did not materialize Monday night into Tuesday as expected, according to the National Weather Service.
Still, county officials have said lessons learned from recent storms has left them better prepared for future events.
One step they recently took was to reclassify the city of Carpinteria, based on city staff analysis, from "extreme risk" to "high risk."
Several factors will be taken into account when determining evacuation plans, officials noted, including projected amount and intensity of rainfall; capacity of debris basins and creek channels at the time of a predicted storm; status of potential obstructions that can change the direction of water flow; the level of ground saturation; and the risk of damage to basic utilities.
“Each storm since the 1/9 Debris Flow adds to our understanding and ability to make decisions to keep residents safe, evacuate residents only when necessary, and return residents home as soon as possible,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.
Emergency and public safety officials will meet ahead of each storm, according to the county, to determine potential impact and evacuation-related factors.
“As we know, meteorological forecasts have a lot of uncertainty,” said Rob Lewin, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management. “Storms can easily exceed forecasts, and we constantly balance this possibility with actions needed to keep the public safe.”
Stuart Seto, weather specialist with the National Weather Service, indicated that the weather service may issue flash flood watches in the county depending on the conditions leading up the storms.
The rain amounts predicted for the storms, according to the National Weather Service, are about 0.3 inches per hour late Wednesday into Thursday and about 0.5 inches per hour on Friday into Saturday. Possible thunderstorms are forecast for Friday.
Community members are encouraged by county officials to sign up for emergency alerts through the “Aware and Prepare” initiative at www.readysbc.org, which is also where the county's interactive debris flow risk map can be found. County updates are also available through social media at @countyofsb on Twitter and www.facebook.com/countyofsb.
For general weather-related information from the county, call 211 from a phone with an 805 area code, call 800-400-1572 from a non-805 phone number or text a ZIP code to 898-211.