Mandatory evacuation orders for areas at risk of debris flows in Montecito and Goleta were lifted at 9 a.m. Friday after a winter storm failed to produce the heavy rainfall emergency services officials had feared.
Preliminary reports indicated the storm caused only minor damage in the area, with utilities left undamaged, officials said.
“Together we made it through the first winter storm since the 1/9 Debris Flow,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said, addressing residents of the evacuated areas. “On behalf of all public safety and emergency officials, we want to thank you for staying informed, being prepared and following the evacuation orders issued yesterday (Thursday).
“We know that being evacuated is a tremendous hardship, and we did not make this decision lightly,” he said. “Because of your cooperation, we were able to get through this together.”
Officials said the agencies involved in emergency operations will analyze the evacuation process and thresholds for the storm that began rolling in late Thursday and reached full intensity after midnight.
The information gleaned from the storm and evacuations will be used to make decisions when storms are forecast in the future.
County Public Works Department crews as well as personnel from Caltrans and the Army Corps of Engineers have been hard at work clearing debris basins, storm drains, creeks and channels in preparation for the storm.
By the time it hit, the roads had been fully cleared, 92 percent of the debris basins were open and creek channels were 74-percent free of debris.
“The catch basins were effective,” said Tom Fayram, deputy director of the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District. “The creek channels, roads were able to handle the rain and debris.”
He said the county’s interactive evacuation map was also updated Friday to reflect changes to the evacuation orders.
Forecasters said the storm was expected to bring rainfall at a rate of one-quarter to one-half an inch per hour with the potential of dropping 2 inches over a five- or six-hour period.
Brown said a rate of half an inch an hour was the minimum level at which debris flows could be triggered.
Matt Pontes, who is directing recovery from the 1/9 Debris Flow, said 2 inches of rain over several hours was not likely to trigger such a flow.
But emergency officials decided to err on the side of caution and issue a mandatory evacuation order effective at noon Thursday.
No information was available on the rate of rainfall, but some areas above Goleta and Montecito did receive more than 2 inches during the course of the storm.
Total rainfall in Tecolote Canyon — one of the areas under evacuation warning — was measured at 3.33 inches.
At the KTYD-FM broadcast tower on a peak north of Montecito, total rainfall was 2.43 inches, and a rain gauge at Jameson Reservoir, which provides water to Montecito, recorded 2.23 inches.
The highest amount of rainfall — 3.52 inches — was measured at San Marcos Pass. A total of 2.84 inches fell in Refugio Pass, 1.42 inches was recorded on East Camino Cielo and Gibraltar Reservoir received 1.51 inches.
Summerland received 0.93 of an inch, 0.65 of an inch was recorded in Carpinteria and 0.64 of an inch fell on Montecito.
Other rainfall totals around the area in hundredths of an inch were 0.30 in Santa Maria, 0.40 in Orcutt, 0.35 in Guadalupe, 0.55 at Twitchell Reservoir, 0.35 in Casmalia, 0.45 in Los Alamos, 0.45 in Buellton, 0.44 in Solvang, 0.31 in Santa Ynez, 0.28 in Los Olivos and 0.20 in Cuyama.