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Montecito front country braces for stormy weather with large debris basins in place

San Ysidro creek
The San Ysidro creek is cleared out in preparation for the next big storm. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Sand bags
Sand bags are out in the Montecito area in preparation for the next big storm. (Photo: John Palminteri)

MONTECITO, Calif. - The area devastated by a deadly mudflow in 2018 is ready to handle the long stream of wet weather coming in from the Pacific Ocean this week. It may be the biggest test in three years.

Montecito creeks have been cleared out in anticipation of a busy winter season with crews working inside debris basins and creek corridors for months.

Now a series of storms has lined up to come ashore. The first wave has dumped more than five inches of rain on San Luis Obispo County areas including Cambria.

So far the system is leaning to the north of the Ventura, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara area. More impacts are reported in the range from the Santa Ynez Valley to Monterey.

The only other storm of significance this winter was in late December. That was a powerful punch that hit and moved on bringing rain and hail with it.

This latest pattern began Saturday with rain, hail and graupel. Some elevations higher than 3000 feet had snow.

The remainder of the week will put the Central Coast to a test especially if the low pressure system parks itself and sends many inches of rain into local communities.

Special equipment has been set up on creek and river passages to monitor the water flow and if there's any debris blocking the runoff.

Normally it takes several inches of rain to saturate the hills before a dangerous runoff takes place.

Resident and Coast Village Road worker Zehra  Yilmaz said, "we need rain but watch out what you are wishing for." She watches the radar images very closely. "Everything has changed.  It is so hard to guess what is going to happen. "    

When it is an easy rain, residents can handle it.  Anything hard and powerful,  and of large durations then they fear the worst.

Resident Liz Leader said, "I was here for the 2018 debris flow and and it was an atmospheric river that we had then and it's an atmospheric river that we have tomorrow. I just hope that the ring nets and the enlarged debris basins will do the job."

Along Park Lane nearly every driveway has some kind of diversion that's made out of sand bags stacked up at the entrance.

 The Carpinteria shoreline has a protective sand wall built up in front of the ocean front properties. It has saved them many times from a  winter storm surge.

 Forecasters say this system will also have some embedded wind events that could have significant gusts, over 40 miles an hour, causing trees to come down and power lines to break.

  At Butterfly beach,  normally busy even in blustery conditions,  the area was virtually empty with nearby residents hunkered down.

Phil Robinson was heading into a grocery store and said, "we've got five dogs and they won't be walking today."   He looks forward to his walk with the dogs Friday after the bulk of the rain is gone.

Lifestyle / Outdoors / Safety / Santa Barbara - South County
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and NewsChannel 12. To learn more about John, click here.

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