An incoming winter storm system arriving today in Santa Barbara County has increased the potential risk of mud and debris flows near the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fire burn areas. To bolster search and rescue capabilities, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) has prepositioned personnel and a Swiftwater Flood Search and Rescue Team in support of Santa Barbara County.
The incoming storm is forecasted to have rainfall of 1/4-inch per hour along the coast and up to 1/2-inch per hour along the foothills and mountains. Today, Santa Barbara County issued a Mandatory Evacuation Order for parts of the county and continues to monitor conditions should additional steps be necessary to protect life and property.
Cal OES prepositioned the Swiftwater Flood Search and Rescue Team from the Long Beach Fire Department, which consists of 14 members and equipment. Resources are strategically deployed across the county and operations are supported out of Earl Warren Fairgrounds.
During the deployment, public safety personnel will use their highly-developed skills to help assess mud and debris flow hazards, plan emergency response and conduct search and rescue operations.
Also deployed to Santa Barbara County in support of operations are emergency operations personnel from Cal OES Southern Region, Law Enforcement and Fire.
Santa Barbara County has prepositioned resources including a 29-member Regional Urban Search and Rescue Task Force out of Santa Barbara County, an Incident Management Team, and a Cal OES mutual aid engine from the Montecito Fire Department. The Cal OES Swiftwater Flood Search and Rescue Team will augment the Regional Urban Search and Rescue Task Force and other resources being strategically positioned by county officials.
In January, heavy rains combined with burn scars from the Thomas Fire caused massive mudslides in the Montecito area of Santa Barbara County. Thousands of residents were evacuated, homes were destroyed or damaged, roads were obstructed, and lives were lost. The Thomas Fire is the largest wildfire in modern California history with more than 280,000 acres burned in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Since 1992, California-based Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces and Cal OES Swiftwater Flood Search and Rescue Teams have been deployed to a long list of state, national, and international disasters including the 1992 Hurricane Iniki, 1994 Northridge Earthquake, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, 2001 World Trade Center and Pentagon Terrorist Attacks, 2004 Hurricane Charlie, 2004 Hurricane Frances, 2004 Hurricane Ivan, 2005 Hurricane Katrina, 2005 Hurricane Rita, 2007 Hurricane Gustav, 2007 Hurricane Ike, 2012 Hurricane Sandy, 2010 Haiti Earthquake, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake in New Zealand, 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and the 2015 Nepal Earthquake. In 2017, these California-based teams were deployed to assist with multiple hurricanes and the Mexico City earthquake as well as statewide flooding.
Cal OES continues to monitor weather conditions and remains in close contact with Santa Barbara County officials to address any emergency management and mutual aid needs.
The American Red Cross has opened an evacuation center at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, CA 93105.