Residents of the area that is worst affected by the deadly floods in the South of California not respond to a voluntary evacuation.
In Montecito, California, the vast majority of people under the mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders early Tuesday remained in their houses, 400 were destroyed or damaged. At least 17 people died.
Evacuation orders are in general based on the weather conditions, the expected storm or fire patterns, and the immanency of the threat.
Often, the dreaded devastating fire, water-and mud slides not materialize. After the false alarms, some residents choose to ignore voluntary evacuation requests.
But experts say that disasters can change in a blink of an eye.
“Disasters are very dynamic in danger. They can change from minute to minute,” said Scott Somers, an emergency management professor at Arizona State University. “Just because an area may be safe at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, does not mean that it is going to be safe for 3 hours”
Jim and Alice Mitchell, whose house was wiped out when the floods cascade through their neighborhood, had not left their home, because they were not required to submit their daughter Kelly Weimer said Wednesday. Almost every house on their block was completely destroyed, and others were ripped off and torn from their foundation.
“They were in a voluntary evacuation area, so they thought they were OK,” said Weimer, who is frantically looking for her parents for more than a day. “They were not involved. It’s not like everyone came around and told them to leave.”
Weimer, 53, spoke to her parents on Monday to wish her father a happy 89th birthday. The couple of more than five decades, planned to stay in because of the rain and have a quiet dinner. Weimer haven’t heard from them since and photos from the region show their house on Hot Springs Road was completely gone.
“This is not an exact science in terms of actually defining where something is going to happen,” Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown said. “Of course, a lot depends on Mother Nature, on the size of the rainfall, the size of the mud slides and so forth, and I think that what is compiled by a team of people, meteorologists, Cal Fire, our Forest Service people, our fire department and personnel from the flood district and so on, made a best-guess estimate of where this was going to happen, and if it turns out that they are exactly the same that this was going to hit.”
Brown said police officers went door-to-door in the mandatory evacuation area, knocking on 7,000 doors to tell them to leave their homes in the hours before the storm swept through. Some refused to leave. The officials did not respond to questions Wednesday about whether she had sent alerts to mobile phones in the evacuation area, which was previously used to warn California residents of the threats of forest fires, and floods.
Still, officials in California said: it is of crucial importance for the residents to listen to the warnings as early as possible and are prepared to immediately evacuate if they are in a warning area. In Los Angeles, teams, evaluate the potential threat areas by examining the potential road blocks, slope erosion and the possibility of lethal conditions and then decide which areas should be under mandatory evacuation orders or voluntary alerts.
“We understand the impact is to get people out of their house and their possessions. We take no issue of evacuations light,” said Captain Erik Scott, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire department.
As their home of 40 years was under the threat of the wildfire last month, Marco Farrell and his parents were evacuated and stayed away for more than a week. This time around, with a voluntary evacuation order was issued for their area and the family discussed leaving but decided to drive.
“There was evacuation fatigue of the fire,” Farrell acknowledged. “I would have preferred for them to leave and in retrospect we should have left. I don’t know how I sleep.”
What will he do the next time there is an evacuation order? “Sure,” he said.
Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers and Frank Baker in Los Angeles contributed to this report.