Rain Hits Santa Barbara and Ventura, Calif., Counties as Residents Prepare for Potential Flooding and Mudslides

(TNS) - Rain continued to soak Santa Barbara and Ventura counties Wednesday afternoon as residents of fire- and mudslide-battered communities endured the first day of Southern California's largest storm of the season.

The storm — a vast atmospheric river of tropical moisture known as a "pineapple express" — made landfall Tuesday night and is predicted to last through Thursday.

"It's going to be steady, light rain with periods of heavy rain," said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service in Oxnard. Heavier bouts of rain will occur Wednesday evening and the following day, he said.

Calif. Debris Removal Presents Health, Environmental Risks

Last week, Santa Barbara, California suffered 20 casualties, countless injuries and millions of dollars in property damage due to the unprecedented mudslides that tore through the city of Montecito. Search and rescue efforts continue in the aftermath of the phenomenon, which was caused by the heavy rains washing away ground laid bare by the Thomas Fire in December 2017. The resulting millions of pounds of debris left behind present biological and environmental risks to the area. Returning residents have been warned to protect against potentially hazardous chemicals and untreated sewage that were swept along with the mudslide debris. Meanwhile, where all this mud and debris will be moved to presents another dilemma.

Rains Finally Arrive, Bringing New Danger in California's Vast Fire Zones

REPORTING FROM MONTECITO, Calif. — In the mountains above coastal Santa Barbara County, the vegetation is typically so deep and lush that it can soak up a half-inch of rainwater before it flows downhill.

But that was before the Thomas fire swept through in December, burning those trees and brush to the ground. Now, the rain has no buffer, and that is cause for alarm.

"It hits the dirt directly and it is instant runoff and carries that sediment," Thomas D. Fayram, the deputy public works director for the county, told concerned residents at a community meeting several weeks ago.

Southern California is about to get its first significant rainstorm in nearly a year this week, with more than 4 inches of rain expected in burn areas.

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