ALAMEDA, Calif. — Thousands of Californians were told Monday to evacuate their homes ahead of a storm that officials said is likely to pummel a region already devastated by wildfires and mudslides.
Robert Lewin, the Santa Barbara County emergency management director, said the area is expecting more rainfall in a single storm than the county typically sees all year.
“Ten inches of rain falling on a burn area is something that we don’t understand exactly what’s going to happen,” he said during a news conference.
Related: Deadly rains in Southern California send rivers of mud into homes, trigger fire, flooding
An «atmospheric river» is expected to arrive Tuesday and last until Thursday, officials said, bringing heavy rain and possible flash flooding, along with tumbling rock and mudslides from San Luis Obispo County south to Los Angeles.
Mark Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the storm’s bulls-eye will be an area scorched last year by a wildfire that was the largest in California history, at 440 square miles.
Eighteen people were killed and 1,000 buildings — many of them homes — were reduced to ashes.
On the front lines of the California wildfire
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In January, with the blaze still simmering, a powerful storm swept across Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, triggering mudslides that killed 21 people.
With mountain channels cleared out by the January storm, Jackson expects rocks and soil to cascade toward the coast with even more ease than they did two months ago.
Lewin concurred. “Those mountains are locked and loaded with debris,” he said.
Mandatory evacuation orders will go into effect on Tuesday in Santa Barbara County, clearing 7,400 residents out of their homes, or roughly 17,000 to 18,000 people, Sheriff Bill Brown said.
“This storm is not the storm to question,” Lewin said. “Please heed the mandatory evacuation orders.”