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Climate and Environment

Evacuation Warnings Will Turn Into Orders In Some Santa Barbara Burn Scar Areas Tuesday Morning

A massive storm is visible off the coast of California
The forecast for rainfall from Monday through Wednesday.
(Courtesy NOAA)
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Residents living near areas burned in the Alisal and Cave fires will be under orders to evacuate starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday — following evacuation warnings that went into place at 6 p.m. Monday.

See a map of areas affected: Santa Barbara County March 2023 Storm Incident Map

Concern is high that as a drenching storm moves over land flooding and debris flows are likely. The National Weather Service urged people late Monday to make preparations ahead of the rain and warned "there will be a widespread threat of flooding so be weather aware."

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Understanding flood warnings

Here's an excerpt from our guide to understanding flood warnings:

  • Flood advisories are how the NWS begins to raise the alarm. The goal is to give people enough time to take action.
  • Flood watches are your indicators to get prepared to move.
  • A flood warning is issued when a hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. When one is issued for your area, you need to get to higher ground immediately.
  • A flash flood warning is issued when a flash flood is coming or in progress. Flash floods are sudden and violent floods that can start within minutes.

Read more: Flash Flood Warnings? Watches? Here’s What You Need To Know

What to expect

A map of Southern California is color coded from green to red to indicate amounts of forecast rain from just over 2 inches to more than 3.6 inches
The forecast for rainfall from Monday through Wednesday.
(Courtesy NWS)

Todd Hall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said this storm could cause water to pool in ponds on local streets and cause minor flooding in low lying areas, including a risk of rock slides and mudslides in burn areas.

The rain will start to get heavier in the later afternoon Tuesday, making for a really wet commute. Expect some delays to get to your destination.

Here's what the weather service is forecasting in terms of the intensity of the storm:

The bulk of the heavier rain will concentrate over on the mountains.

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"We're looking at the potential for the highest rain to be up in the Santa Monicas and along south facing slopes to the San Gabriel Mountains," said Hall.

Here's what we can expect from rainfall totals:

Any snowfall will remain at the resort levels, meaning 8,000 feet or above, but the weather agency predicts little to no accumulation of snow.

Tuesday will also bring gusty winds, with the highest winds concentrating over on the mountains.

This is a shorter system than some of the recent storms that have hit the state. Meteorologists expects it to taper off after Wednesday afternoon. But the National Weather Service warns to still stay away from local beaches as a high surf advisory will still be in effect Wednesday.

About atmospheric rivers

Here's what my colleague Jacob Margolis, who writes about science, says about atmospheric rivers:

We make a big deal about them for a few reasons.

One is that, on average, they're responsible for roughly half of our precipitation each year. And just a handful of atmospheric rivers can be the difference between a wet year and another bleak, drought-ridden one.

The second reason is that because they can drop so much water, they're also some of our most destructive storms, causing billions of dollars of flood damage to states across the Western U.S.
An image that displays the science of an atmospheric river. "A flowing column of condensed water vapor in the atmosphere responsible for producing significant levels of rain and snow."
Atmospheric rivers are responsible for bringing substantial precipitation to California.
(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Driving in the rain

  • Roadway safety experts advised motorists to:

    • Check weather and road conditions all along your planned route
    • Slow down
    • Keep a wider-than-usual distance between your vehicle and the one in front
    • Don't drive through standing water — as little as 12 inches of rushing water can carry away most cars, and two feet can carry away SUVs and trucks.
    • Make sure tires are fully inflated
    • Check windshield wiper blades and replace if necessary

How to stay safe in high winds

Safety tips from Southern California Edison
    • Watch for traffic signals that may be out. Approach those intersections as four-way stops.
    • Make sure you have a battery-operated radio and flashlights. Check the batteries to make sure they are fresh. Use flashlights for lighting during a power outage; do not use candles because they may pose a significant fire hazard.
    • If you’re in a vehicle with a fallen power line on it, stay in the vehicle and remain calm until help arrives. It is OK to use your cellphone to call 911. If you must leave the vehicle, remember to exit away from downed power lines and exit by jumping from the vehicle and landing with both feet together. You must not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Then proceed away from the vehicle by shuffling and not picking up your feet until you are several yards away. 
    • Water and electricity don’t mix. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Do not step in or enter any water that a downed power line may be touching.
    • Do not use any equipment inside that is designed for outdoor heating or cooking. Such equipment can emit carbon monoxide and other toxic gases.
    • If you use a generator, place it outdoors and plug individual appliances directly into it, using a heavy-duty extension cord. Connecting generators directly to household circuits creates “backfeed,” which is dangerous to repair crews.
    • Leave the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep food as fresh as possible. Place blocks of ice inside to help keep food cold. Check food carefully for signs of spoilage. 
    • Check on your neighbors to make sure everyone is safe.

Additional storm resources

What questions do you have about the weather we're experiencing?
A massive winter storm is hitting Southern California. We're here to answer your questions.

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