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Storm warnings and new maps help residents get ready for winter rains

Serious warnings have come out from state and local leaders about flood risks after a major fire, and the scenario is being played out here.

It comes after the December Thomas fire impacts in the Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, followed by the Montecito mudflow last January. That took 23 lives and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes.

One resident saw it first hand, and is telling the community, “It’s not rhetoric, it’s real, be prepared, think ahead,” said Curtis Skene. “There are practical things you can do that I wish I had done.” He says the on going threat still exists.

When it comes to evacuations, Skene, who lives on East Valley Road says, “None of us should have been there. Including myself.”

Large fire zones statewide all have specific flooding issues now depending on where they are located. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services spokesman Jeff Toney says “our big risks in Southern California is flood after fire. After the flames are out our attention immediately turns to the watershed.”

The close up look at the burn area has been done on a regular basis to see how the regrowth is coming along. The warning is very direct. “Our hillsides take time to heal. It could be between two to five years,” said Toney.

The Army Corp of Engineers says it had crews in the area immediately after the mudflow to help the community dig out of the mess. It has worked with local flood control crews prior to the next round of rain to clear out areas overwhelmed with debris.

David Kingston with the Army Corps of Engineers said, “during that time more than 400,000 cubic yards of debris about 30,000 truckloads was removed from the basins and channels.” He said that would be like trucks lined up from here to Huntington Beach in Orange County.

The Corps says 11 debris basins were targeted and restored to their full capacity.

Emergency officials also want you to have an escape plan and use it even before an alert if you are worried.

Skene said technology is helpful in many ways but “the notion that you can wait for a text message and get into your car and leave is so patently false. That doesn’t work. You can not wait for the last minute.”

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D)-Santa Barbara, says, “We are a state that has experienced this and continue to be so. Be aware , be prepared and take action.” She stressed that changing climate conditions have created many new challenges, many that are still unknown, and will often catch local residents off guard faster than warnings can come out.

Community meetings will help the public understand new on line maps to identify specific high risk areas. They will also inform the public on emergency information and evacuation plans. The first meeting will be October 25 at Montecito Union School at 5:30 p.m. and the second will be October 29 at the Carpinteria Veterans Memorial Building at 5:30 p.m.

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