The Thomas Fire was not even at full containment before Southern California was slammed with disaster again in early January. Heavy rains triggered the deadly and devastating Montecito mudslide, crippling the area for about two weeks as crews worked tirelessly to clear the 101 freeway that had been clogged with mud and debris.
This week, we’re amidst a another massive storm predicted for Tuesday through this evening, hopefully clearing by Friday. Some predictions had anticipated this would be the largest storm of the season, beginning in Santa Barbara County and moving south towards L.A throughout the week.
Overnight, a hillside in La Tuna Canyon gave way to a landslide from the rains. No injuries or structural damage was reported. That area was under mandatory evacuation, and that will remain in place until 5am Friday (as of this writing).
Road Closures as of Thursday Morning
The latest updates as of Thursday morning resulted in some road closures, including northbound 101 near Sanjon Rd. in Ventura due to a tree fall, and McNell Rd. and Grand Ave. in Ojai due to flooding.
- Highway 33 from Fairview Road to Lockwood Valley Road
- Matilija Canyon Road, Fairweather crossing to Hwy 33
- Nye Road at N. Ventura Avenue
- Avila Drive between Moreno Drive and Romano Drive, from 8a-12p
- Orchard Drive between Villanova Road and Corta Street, from 8a-12p
Flash flood alerts had been issued for late Tuesday afternoon through Thursday afternoon in recent burn areas, with a potential for expansion to outside the burn areas. Forecasters project that rainfall exceeding just ½” per hour would be enough to trigger mudflows and flash flooding.
There are major concerns for this storm, which are twofold. Firstly, experts are keeping an eye on the burn scars in the affected Thomas Fire, Sherpa, Whittier, La Tuna Canyon/Burbank, and Alamo Fire areas. Topanga Canyon is also on experts’ radars, with a mudslide just barely cleared from the January rains, and with another recent closure on Topanga Canyon Blvd towards PCH from early March rains. Residents of these areas are being prompted to prepare for possible evacuations if necessary.
Secondly, experts are worried about the pattern of the rainfall and how it will affect these areas in particular. Oxnard-based meteorologist, Todd Hall describes this system as something we’re not accustomed to in Southern California. 2”-4” is expected to drop in the coastal areas, and possibly 4”-6” in the foothills and mountains.
If the rainfall is spread consistently over the anticipated course of three days, most places should be able to hold steady. If the rain falls instead in big bursts, it could result in much severer conditions, reminiscent of the Montecito slides.
How Can You Stay Safe?
We’re generally pretty lucky when it comes to weather, but this last season has definitely reinforced for many of us how quickly dangerous (and sadly, fatal) conditions can get under certain circumstances. Here are some things to keep in mind for this upcoming storm and potential others down the line:
1. Follow the News/Updates
Because of the recent fire damage in Ventura County and other Southern California areas, it’s wise to check for updates on websites like ReadyVenturaCounty.org and sign up for the VC Alert emergency notification system ( just know that they advise complete registration in their system can take up to 10 days).
Twitter can also be a great, up-to-the-minute resource from trusted sources like Ventura County Fire (@VCFD), the National Weather Service Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles), Ventura County (@CountyVentura), and VC Scanner (@VCScanner) as well.
2. Heed the Warnings
It is also important to heed evacuation warnings, even if they are not yet mandatory. As we’ve mentioned in our previous blog just after the January deluge, observing the voluntary evacuation orders allows you more time to gather your belongings and get ‘safely to safety.’ Evacuating in a less frantic state of mind can help you think more clearly and drive more safely; plus, roads are more likely to be accessible and easier to drive prior to a mandatory evacuation order.
Additionally, remember that the victims of the Montecito mudslide were not under mandatory evacuation orders at the time of the January incident. Nature hits fast, and it’s better to stay prepared and ahead of the game as much as you can.
3. Take Extra Care While Driving
Aside from the fact that our area has been battered with natural disasters lately, Southern Californians are notoriously ignorant (or forgetful) of taking extra precaution in inclement weather conditions.
Regardless of whether this particular storm is threatening to be on par or worse than January’s storm, drivers should always, at the very least, practice these precautions in rainy conditions:
- Look ahead: While driving, look farther ahead for slow-downs or accidents.
- Increase your following distance.
- Avoid slamming on the brakes or hitting the accelerator hard, which can cause you to lose traction or hydroplane.
- Turn on headlights for increased visibility, but refrain from using high beams, which can blind other drivers.
A few things that require more lead time, but are worth looking into as well are:
- Tires: Make sure your vehicle’s tires are in good condition and properly inflated. Balding tires can increase the risk of skidding.
- Windshield Wipers: Replace worn-out windshield wipers; this helps increase visibility in heavy rains.
- Brake check: Make sure your brakes are properly working. While driving, gently tap them (when safe) a few times after driving through a puddle, as they may get slippery.
Check the Roads Before Heading Out
Especially in stormy weather, it’s a good idea to check the road conditions before heading out for any accidents, road closures, and to adjust your route if necessary. Google Maps is always handy, but the CHP Traffic Incident Page is also a great resource for local road closures and incidents; make sure you choose the specific city you want. The California Department of Transportation (CA DOT) also lists road closures based on highway, but may not have up-to-the-minute information.
If the rain is coming down and you don’t need to go out, it’s best to stay inside and avoid the roadways as a precaution.
If you’re already on the road, and there’s an option to drive in the middle lane, that’s typically the safest place to be since water tends to accumulate at the edges.
Our past blog, Rainy Weather in California has more great tips on how to drive safely in wet weather.
Be safe out there, be prepared, and stay informed!
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“Highway 101 Reopens After Long Closure From Deadly Mudslide”. VC Star. Retrieved 19 March 2018. http://www.vcstar.com/story/news/local/communities/ventura/2018/01/21/highway-101-reopens-montecito-after-long-closure-deadly-mudslides/1052292001/
“Another Storm to Slam Down On Southern California.” Agoura Hills Patch. Retrieved 19 March 2018. https://patch.com/california/agourahills/s/gdodj/another-storm-to-slam-down-on-southern-california?utm_source=newsletter-daily&utm_medium=email&utm_term=weather&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_content=article-topstories&utm_slot=1
“Area Forecast Discussion.” National Weather Service (NWS). Retrieved 19 March 2018. https://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=LOX&issuedby=LOX&product=AFD&format=CI&version=1&glossary=1
“VC Emergency Information: Weather Summary.” VC Emergency. Retrieved 19 March 2018. https://www.vcemergency.com/
“Evacuations Ordered in Parts of Santa Barbara, Ventura Counties Ahead of SoCal Storm.” ABC 7 News. Retrieved 20 March 2018. http://abc7.com/weather/evacuations-ordered-in-thomas-fire-burn-areas-ahead-of-socal-storm/3235912/
“Flash Flood Watch in Los Angeles County.” Google Public Alerts. Retrieved 20 March 2018. https://www.google.org/publicalerts/alert?aid=e7ea7bbdf7f2a118&hl=en&gl=US&source=web
“‘Significant’ Storm to Bring Steady Rain in Southern California This Week.” LA Times. Retrieved 20 March 2018. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-winter-storm-20180319-story.html
“Mudslide Shuts Down Topanga in Malibu.” CBS Local. Retrieved 19 March 2018. http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2018/03/02/mudslide-shuts-down-topanga/
“Strong Storm Headed For SoCal: Mandatory Evacuations Ordered.” Southern California Public Radio (SCPR). Retrieved 19 March 2018. https://www.scpr.org/news/2018/03/19/81772/a-strong-storm-headed-for-socal-could-bring-season/
“How to Drive Safely in Southern California Rain.” SCPR. Retrieved 19 March 2018. https://www.scpr.org/news/2018/03/01/81260/how-to-drive-safely-in-the-rain/
“CHP Traffic Incident Information Page.” California Highway Patrol. Retrieved 22 March 2018. http://cad.chp.ca.gov/Traffic.aspx
“Road Information.” CalTrans. Retrieved 22 March 2018. http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi