Storm Readiness Meeting

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   November 1, 2018

On October 25, more than 100 Montecito residents attended a community meeting at Montecito Union School regarding storm readiness, hosted by the County of Santa Barbara and the Montecito Association. “We’re bracing ourselves for another post-fire winter season, and the most effective defense we have is to work together as a community,” said director of recovery Matt Pontes, who facilitated the meeting, which featured presentations from several local leaders and authorities. 

As we reported in last week’s edition (MJ #24/43), the County has released a new debris flow map, which will serve to inform evacuations during intense storms. Mark Jackson, meteorologist in charge with the National Weather Service, explained the thought process behind the new rain threshold rate (.8”  per hour, increased from .5” earlier this year). “It’s the high-intensity short duration that are most likely to produce debris flow, and the thresholds will be higher as the burn scar ages due to regrowth,” he said. He presented a slide that shows the percentage of years that the .8”/hr. threshold has been met at various rain gauge sites. At the Cold Spring Debris Basin, the threshold of .8”/hr. has been met 22 of the 40 years that it has been tracked. At the Doulton Tunnel rain gauge site, the threshold has been met 23 of the 34 years the levels have been tracked. 

Director of the County’s Office of Emergency Management Rob Lewin presented the new Ready, Set, Go, emergency action plan, which outlines specific actions to take place in the days leading up to a predicted storm. Ready: 72 hours to 48 hours before a predicted storm, a Weather Advisory will be issued alerting residents to start preparing. Residents should closely monitor the situation, and begin determining what they will need and where they will go during an evacuation. They should also prepare their home with sandbags and other mitigation measures. Set: An Evacuation Warning will be issued 48 hours to 24 hours before a storm. This is the time for residents to arrange transportation, confirm evacuation plans, gather necessary items, and be ready to leave. Go: 24 hours or fewer before the storm, authorities will issue an Evacuation Order, and residents in the evacuation zone should leave. “Everyone should also have preparations in place for a rapidly developing storm and know where they are going to go to reach higher ground,” Lewin said. 

Montecito Fire’s Division chief of operations Kevin Taylor presented the new evacuation map, which now identifies the parcels that will be under an evacuation order during a strong storm. There are 2,496 parcels located in the evacuation zone, which is nearly half of the roughly 5,000 parcels in Montecito. The interactive map, which is live at, allows users to type in their address, and if their parcel is located in the red zone, it will be clear that the property is under evacuation. 

Those residents who are not in the evacuation zone are not expected to leave during a predicted storm, but they should know that there is a chance they will be isolated and without utilities. They should be prepared with two weeks’ worth of water, food, and medication. 

The minimal yellow areas of the new map show schools, which will be evacuated during evacuation orders, despite the majority being located outside of the red zone. Susan Salcido, the County’s superintendent of schools, reported that most Montecito and Carpinteria area schools will be evacuated, with the exception of Cold Spring School. Some will have alternative sites while evacuated. 

Santa Barbara County Sheriff chief deputy Craig Bonner rounded out the platform, explaining the multiple methods that will continue to be used to notify the public during evacuations. Methods include door-to-door notification, text messages and email, robo-call, Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), emergency alerts on TV and radio, social media channels, and traditional media outlets. Bonner stressed that several of these notification systems will not be activated unless residents are signed up for the County’s notification system, Aware & Prepare. (Sign up at 

The meeting is available for online viewing at 


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