Skip to Content

Preparation helps City of Santa Barbara weather storm

Preparation and teamwork helps city of Santa Barbara weather latest storm

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.-Santa Barbara Fire Chief Chris Mailes credited word done beforehand with saving lives and property.

Mailed compared it to an earthquake.

"We were preparing for a 6.0 earthquake and we ended up with about a 4.0 or 4.5 earthquake."

The storm wasn't as big as anticipated.

He said the city planned well and he gave examples of the teamwork that followed.

"At every off-ramp in Santa Barbara you saw barricade signs that the [California] Highway Patrol placed at the top of each off-ramp in anticipation of flooded underpasses."

Mailes said the city is fortunate the National Weather Service office is based in Oxnard and that the lead forecaster for the NWS came to a weekend news conference.

He said the the National Flood Prediction Center predicted a high risk that included a greater than 70 percent chance of significant flooding in the city of Santa Barbara.

He said they did not take the prediction lightly, and they urged people not to get near moving water.

"They began daily webinars with us and began pushing messaging out to us regarding this storm."

Mailes said they worked with partner agencies to come together for a Storm Risk Decision Team and a South Coast Storm Risk Decision Team.

That helped determine evacuation areas.

On Saturday, fire apparatus including brush trucks that serve as high water trucks were moved into strategic positions.

"We had a helicopter on duty 24 hours."

Extra fire engines and staff were also on duty.

"We had several ocean rescue swimmers and swift water rescue swimmers on duty on fire apparatus and on additional units."

Mailes said the gravity of the storm took effect on Sunday when the city received four inches of rain while the foothills and mountains received even more at a rate of up an inch an hour.

Aggressive messaging followed.

They knew this was not going to be a four hour event but a 12-24 hours event.

"We are subject to Orographic lift; that is when the clouds come in they bump up against our front country mountains and clouds sit there and dump rain," said Mailes.

The city's Bilingual Outreach Coorindinator Liliana Encinas said reaching those who speak Spanish in Spanish made a difference, too. 

"We understand we have a vast majority of our community that is Spanish speaking so we want to make that everyone receives the same messaging at the same time, " said Encinas, " We want to spread the word of preparedness. It is not a matter of if it is going to happen, it is when it is going to happen."

Community members heeded warnings and took responsibility for their own safety as well.

"They really listened to the public information, they listened to the National Weather Service and got prepared," said City of Santa Barbara Emergency Services Manager Stacey Rosenberger, " and we want them to do that for every disaster."

She said people can learn how to do that by signing up for alerts and following first responders on social media.

"They can follow all of our social media channels and make sure that they're having situational awareness and are informed of weather ad other disasters that may be coming," said Rosenberger.

City Public Information Officer Bryan Latchford said it helped that residents stayed informed, stayed indoors, didn't drive when they didn't have to.

Latchford said moving forward they should prepare now for the future.

He has a go bag is part of being prepared.

"My go bag is a set of warm clothes, I have a water filtration device, I have power banks for electricity, I have an emergency radio with a light and a hand crank."

City Council members thanked all the agencies that helped before and during the storm.

They also ratified the Declaration of Local Emergency issued before the storm arrived.

Sign up for alerts at https// and follow city information by visiting

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


News Channel 3-12 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content