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California storm brings flooding, mudslides and triggers evacuations

Evacuation orders for Montecito and nearby burn scarred areas of Santa Barbara County have been lifted and residents are clear to return to their homes, county Sheriff Bill Brown announced in a countywide news conference Tuesday afternoon. 

Throughout the storm, the county has been deluged with water, the scene of flooding, mudslides, road closures and “countless rescues,” according to Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Anthony Stornetta.

Helicopters have been used in at least six hoist rescues, and 265 firefighters have been out responding to more than 400 storm-related calls scattered throughout the county’s approximately 3,000 square miles, Stornetta said. 

In the city of Santa Barbara proper, there were 110 calls for service ranging from gas leaks to people stuck in cars, homes and elevators, according to Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Chris Mailes. “The city is doing very well, considering,” said Mailes.

Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse said the city lost a fire engine as well as a couple of other trucks due to floodwaters during rescue attempts. Additionally, the airport’s runway is flooded leading to a halt to all incoming and outgoing flights.

The southbound lanes of the 101 Highway have fully reopened and California Highway Patrol Capt. Michael Logie anticipated the northbound lanes will reopen by 5 p.m. local time. Once that thoroughfare is back in action, work will commence on State Route 154, which is blocked by multiple rock slides. 

“This really tested what our capacity was,” Stornetta said of the torrent, noting the county saw 17 inches of rain in some places. Now, Santa Barbara braces for the next storm in the series, expected to hit this weekend.

About burn scars: The National Weather Service explains on its website “steep terrain combined with a severe burn scar and light precipitation can result in flash flooding within minutes of precipitation beginning.”

Source of data and images: cnn

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