LOS ANGELES – A powerful winter storm was bearing down Wednesday on California and forecasters warned of heavy snowfall in the northern mountains, while the predictions of widespread rain elsewhere led to concerns about the flooding near wildfire burn scars.
Santa Barbara County issued a recommended evacuation warning for the south coast communities, including Montecito, where a storm left a huge amount of rain In the early morning of Jan. 9.
Flash floods carry huge boulders blasted through Montecito, destroying or damaging hundreds of homes. Twenty people were killed and two remain missing.
The county is following a strict new system of warnings that the emphasis on evacuations well in advance of storms rather than to suggest that residents can make use of their discretionary powers.
Officials hoped to decide later Wednesday whether to issue a mandatory evacuation order before the storm reached the southern half of the state late Thursday or Friday early.
“Today is the day to prepare and have everything ready to go,” said Suzanne Grimmesey, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations Center. “For people with functional needs or large animals, we recommend that it is now likely to have a good time and not have to wait.”
She did not know how many people in the area.
Montecito and neighboring communities to the coastal foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains are located down the slopes burned bare by the largest wildfire in the recorded history of California as well as other fires in the past few years.
Evacuation fatigue for some residents is a factor. Some evacuated several times during the forest fires, and then again when the mudslides hit.
Geologists estimate that the scorched earth will not grow vegetation from three to five years, that means that every time a big storm moves in the area, the residents may be asked or ordered to evacuate.
“It’s kind of our way of life to the country is growing again,” Grimmesey said.
The latest storm was expected to begin in the northern portion of the state Wednesday, in the afternoon, then ramp-up on Thursday, when a blizzard warning is in effect become a large part of the Sierra Nevada.
The National Weather Service said that the northern mountains were expected to receive 3 feet (0.9 meter) to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of snow, and up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) in certain areas.
The dump would be a boon for the Sierra snowpack, which is vital to the state of the water supply, but only about a quarter of the normal size for this winter.
Players, but is focused on a host of dangers for anyone who tries to drive through the mountains.
“Travel is highly discouraged,” the Sacramento weather bureau said flatly.