First we had fires, then we had floods. We aren’t even completely done with the Thomas Fire (still holding at 92% containment) and Southern California was dealt another blow. While we all thought we would be grateful for the much-needed rain, this event combined with the burn scars from the Thomas Fire and others confirmed experts’ worst fears.

With prompting from overnight rains, mudslides barreled through Southern California early Tuesday morning. Many residents in the local areas were just settling back in from previous fire-related evacuations, when new evacuation orders were released due to the rains.

Some of the areas that suffered Tuesday morning included Topanga Canyon, and Burbank, where residents were affected near the Verdugo Mountains near Country Club Dr. and under mandatory evacuation orders due to mudslides.

Montecito saw the greatest tragedy yesterday, with at least 15 people perishing in weather-related incidents and heavy mudslides. At least 25 people are reported injured, and still 24 missing. Sadly, numbers could rise as search and rescue efforts get further underway. Certain areas, such as Romero Canyon, remain inaccessible and rescue crews are prioritizing those efforts as they have no running water, gas, or electricity. An estimated 300 are stranded in their homes as of Wednesday morning.

Though it seems the acute rain trauma is over, there is still much reason to be vigilant and aware during this time.

Here are a few safety tips everyone can afford to heed during this rain event and beyond.

1. Check the Traffic and Road Conditions Before You Head Out

CA.gov Department of Transportation (DOT) website is a great resource for checking current highway conditions. Tuesday morning saw closures of the 101 freeway between Ventura and Santa Barbara due to the heavy rains and mudslides.

The County of Ventura’s Emergency information website also has current updates on evacuation orders, road closures, and other pertinent information for the area.

Further south on the 5/118 freeways yesterday, a frightening scene occurred with a big rig falling from the 5 freeway overpass onto the 118 lanes below. The driver was taken to the hospital with injuries, but no fortunately, no fatalities occurred on the highway. All lanes have since been re-opened.

2. Heed Voluntary and Mandatory Evacuations Orders

Though it may seem obvious, this is worth the reminder as some people do decide to stay despite imminent danger, or looky-loos like to linger around incident areas. The Ventura County Emergency website has a great glossary of emergency definitions as well as evacuation updates. Google’s Public Alerts also show the latest flash flood warnings, plus related stories.

Heeding voluntary evacuation orders allows you to gather your things in a calmer frame of mind, pack up, and drive more easily to a safer location, versus leaving under mandatory evacuation orders where people are often in a frantic state of mind.

Often people think that not evacuating will only affect them individually, but it does pose a danger to the emergency responders and others attempting to safely clear the area. While residents are not generally removed from their own property, if people remain on public property or roadways that impede evacuation or rescue efforts, they may be subject to removal or even arrest. This diverts efforts and resources from the main operation, potentially risking its success.

One thing to note, though — those that suffered in Montecito’s tragedy yesterday were not under mandatory evacuation orders, since they were south of the burn areas from the Thomas Fire. A true testament to nature’s unpredictability, the deluge of rain and mud plowed quickly and powerfully through the area in the early hours of Tuesday morning, while many were fast asleep.

3. Pick Your Activities and Route Accordingly

Despite the rains having currently subsided, there is clearly still a lot of work ahead in the coming days for the rescue crews. It’s best to stay away from the affected areas if possible, and let the recovery efforts continue with little interference.

For those needing to get to work or an otherwise pressing reason, The CONDOR Express and Island Packers are offering a water taxi/shuttle service between Ventura and Santa Barbara. If you don’t need to travel to these areas right now, it’s best to stay put and let others use this resource.

Again, VC Emergency and CA DOT are great websites to use as a resource for road closures and other pertinent information.

Stay safe, stay informed, and be well out there!

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Check Out These References for Further Reading:

“Thomas Fire News Release” Incident Informations Systems. Retrieved 10 January 2018. https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/5670/42437/

“Girl Rescued, Others Trapped as Mudslides Destroys Homes.” LA Times. Retrieved 9 January 2018. http://www.latimes.com/la-me-southern-california-storm-live-girl-rescued-others-trapped-as-mudslide-1515520943-htmlstory.html

“Southern California Storm: Pounding Rains Unleash Deadly Mudflows In and Around Fire-Ravaged Areas.” LA Times. Retrieved 9 January 2018. http://www.latimes.com/la-me-southern-california-storm-live-girl-rescued-others-trapped-as-mudslide-1515520943-htmlstory.html

“Mudslides Kill 15; Rescue Underway for 300 Stranded Homes.” Agoura Hills Patch. Retrieved 10 January 2018. https://patch.com/california/agourahills/s/gbxtt/ca-mudslides-kill-15-rescue-underway-for-300-stranded-in-homes?utm_source=alert-breakingnews&utm_medium=email&utm_term=weather&utm_campaign=alert

“SoCal Storm Triggers Mudslides, Killing at Least 15 and Destroying Homes.” Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved 10 January 2018. http://www.scpr.org/news/2018/01/09/79674/california-storm-floods-roads-loosens-hillsides/

“Death Toll From Slides Rises to 15 With Air Rescues Set to Begin in Montecito.” LA Times. Retrieved 10 January 2018. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-montecito-storm-mudflow-20180110-htmlstory.html

“Current Conditions: CA Department of Transportation.” CA DOT. Retrieved 10 January 2018. http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/display.php?page=us101

“County of Ventura Emergency Information.” County of Ventura. Retrieved 10 January 2018. http://www.vcemergency.com/

“Big Rig Drives of I-5 Interchange Landing On Lanes Below.” Agoura Hills Patch. Retrieved 10 January 2018. https://patch.com/california/agourahills/s/gbx0b/big-rig-drives-off-i-5-interchange-landing-on-lanes-below-watch?utm_source=alert-breakingnews&utm_medium=email&utm_term=weather&utm_campaign=alert

“Montecito Neighborhood Ripped By Mudslides Was Not Under Mandatory Evacuation Order.” LA Times. Retrieved 9 January 2018. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-evacuation-montecito-20180109-story.html