Jan 11, 2018

Urgent alerts about deadly mudslides came too late for Montecito victims

Montecito, CA
USA
by
Joseph Serna, Hailey Branson-Potts, Ruben Vives, Laura J. Nelson
,
LA Times
Cleanup begins Thursday morning outside the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara resort on Channel Drive. Photo: Al Seib, Los Angeles Times
Cleanup begins Thursday morning outside the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara resort on Channel Drive. Photo: Al Seib, Los Angeles Times

After the Thomas fire, the U.S. Geological Survey studied the burn area to determine its vulnerability for flash floods, mudslides and debris flows. The agency found that a rainfall rate of half an inch per hour would trigger debris flows, officials said.

Too much rain

On Tuesday morning, the storm far exceeded that threshold when it dumped 0.54 of an inch of rain on Montecito within five minutes, said Robert Munroe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Munroe said such an extreme rainfall rate is usually seen once every 200 years.