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Mudslides. Flood Warnings. Evacuations. This Week’s Storms Hit Southern California Hard

A man wearing black pants and black jackets, holds a black umbrella while walking down a side walk in front of a parking lot with a CVS Pharmacy.
A man walks in the rain along Huntington Drive in Duarte on Monday, January 9th, 2023.
(Brian Feinzimer
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This week’s storms have come with a vengeance.

The rain will continue to fall all day today but by last night some parts of Southern California had already gotten quite a lot of it, especially Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.

The Storm's Impact

By 5 p.m. on Monday, one area of Santa Barbara County called San Marcos Pass had 13.2 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. It rained so much that a man was seen kayaking down the street in the city of Santa Barbara.

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“The last time we had a storm of this strength and magnitude especially for Santa Barbara and Ventura areas, we would have to go back to the winter of 2005 to have these similar rainfall totals,” said Todd Hall, an NWS meteorologist.

Evacuations were ordered in parts of Santa Barbara County yesterday afternoon, including all of Montecito. Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and local journalists tweeted what they saw. Schools were also cancelled through Tuesday.

Adding to Monday’s stress for Montecito residents was the fact that yesterday also marked the 5th anniversary of the deadly mudslide that killed 23 people there and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

One of my colleagues in the LAist newsroom, Michael Flores, talked to Maryann Spradley, an administrator at El Montecito Presbyterian Church.

“One of our elders, who was very special, lost his life in that event,” Spradley said. “They were going to have a five year anniversary tonight. But due to this storm, everything is canceled. It just makes me sad and makes my heart really heavy.”

The Very Real Threat Of Mudslides

Mudslides are a very real threat during the rainy season in Southern California, especially in areas where a wildfire has burned. My colleague, science reporter Jacob Margolis, explained why in a piece he wrote after those mudslides hit Montecito in 2018:

“When a fire scorches a hillside a few things happen. A waxy, water repellent layer can form on the surface of the soil, making it less able to absorb the water falling from the sky. And vegetation, that’d normally hold soil in place and protect it from fast falling raindrops, is missing, leaving the soil to be battered, break loose and flow fast down hill, collecting all sorts of dangerous debris on the way down.”
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If you live in an area that is prone to mudslides, get knowledgeable about these dangerous and destructive debris flows. Jacob has all of the tips on what you need to know to prepare your home and loved ones.

More rain is expected later in the week, but NWS says we could be entering into a dry period after that. In the meantime, stay safe – and try to stay off the roads if you can.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

More News

(After you stop hitting snooze)

  • *At LAist we will always bring you the news freely, but occasionally we do include links to other publications that may be behind a paywall. Thank you for understanding! 

  • Today the Los Angeles Police Commission will conduct a public hearing to deliberate on whether they should reappoint L.A. Police Department Chief Michel Moore. This comes after some criticism, including how the LAPD handled L.A. protests after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. 
  • The L.A. City Council is also back in session after nearly a month off, and council members already have serious business to discuss, namely what to do since the council voted to phase out COVID eviction protections for renters. Stay tuned to see what happens next now that there are some new council members and pressure from community groups that demand more help for renters. 
  • The rain is not stopping to give anyone a reprieve, but volunteers in Orange County are working to repair Seal Beach after last week’s winter storm. My colleague Jill Replogle has all the information you need to know about these efforts and how folks can prepare for continued wet weather.
  • There’s about a million public school students experiencing homelessness across the U.S. but many are “doubled-up,” which means they are living with other family members or friends. In California, those doubled-up numbers are high — outpacing the national average
  • If you are mourning the loss of P-22 you’ll be able to celebrate the life and grieve the death of our favorite celebrity cougar at the Greek Theatre on Feb. 4. but the free tickets went fast are now sold out. If you did score a seat, FYI: Parking is $20, so if you can, use a ridesharing app or ride the bus. 
  • California hospitals are still having a hard time meeting the earthquake safety requirementsthey need to keep their patients safe. But hospital administrators say they need more time to upgrade their buildings after the financial woes from the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The Golden Globes are back tonight after one year. This comes after its voting body, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, agreed to reform after facing criticism for having zero Black voters. My colleague John Horn breaks it down.

Wait... One More Thing

Family Says Man Fatally Shot By LAPD Suffered Through Mental Health Illness

About two dozen organizers and family of Oscar Leon Sanchez stand together. Several hold signs which are bright green and orange. Signs read "Justice for Oscar Leon"
Organizers and family of Oscar Leon Sanchez come together for a photo outside of LAPD Newton station on Sunday.
(Robert Garrova / LAist )

We already know from Robert Garrova’s reporting that L.A. County has a lot of work to do when it comes to addressing the mental health needs of people living here. Just one day after the LAPD shot and killed Takar Smith whose family said was taking medication for schizophrenia, officers shot and killed another man, 35-year-old Oscar Leon Sanchez.

In a press conference Sunday, Sanchez’s family said that he also struggled with his mental health. The family’s attorney, Christian Contreras said he was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and that he was having a mental health crisis at the time the officers were attempting an arrest. Community organizers gathered this weekend in support of the family. “We see this as a pattern of police in this city and across the nation being called to respond to mental health crises and unfortunately in too many occasions we see lethal force be deployed,” said Alejandro Villalpando of the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police.

The family is demanding answers over what happened. It’s expected the incident will be discussed at today’s meeting of the L.A. Police Commission.

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