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Evacuations Ordered Due to Debris Flow Threat in Santa Barbara County

Residents in Santa Barbara County near wildfire burn areas remained under evacuation orders Thursday morning as a strong winter storm moved through the region.

The evacuation order was issued Wednesday night for parts of the Alisal, Thomas and Cave fire burn scars. County officials did not have a firm number for how many people were under evacuation orders, but Susan Klein-Rothschild, a spokesperson in the county’s emergency operations center, said sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door and contacted at least 480 people.

Among the towns ordered to evacuate was Montecito, where five years ago huge boulders, mud and debris swept down mountains through the town to the shoreline during overnight downpours, killing 23 people and destroying more than 100 homes. The town is home to many celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan.

“What we’re talking about here is a lot of water coming off the top of the hills, coming down into the creeks and streams and as it comes down, it gains momentum and that’s what the initial danger is,” Montecito Fire Department Chief Kevin Taylor said.

The storm was expected to peak overnight into early Thursday morning with Santa Barbara and Ventura counties likely to see the most rain.

“We anticipate that this may be one of the most challenging and impactful series of storms to touch down in California in the last five years,” said Nancy Ward, the new director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The storm is one of three so-called atmospheric river storms in the last week to reach the drought-stricken state. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to allow for a quick response and to aid in cleanup from another powerful storm that hit just days earlier.

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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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