https://www.sfgate.com/centralcoast/article/wealthy-california-enclave-evacuation-17705880.php

Montecito, one of California’s wealthiest neighborhoods, was put under an evacuation order at 12:31 p.m. Monday amid a potent atmospheric river dumping rain across the state. The order comes five years to the day after mudslides killed 23 people in this Santa Barbara County enclave that’s popular with celebrities on the Central Coast

The evacuation orders affect Montecito, which has about 8,100 residents, including Prince Harry and Meghan, as well as parts of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Summerland, the Montecito Fire Protection District posted on Twitter.

“Leave now!” the fire department warned.

Most of Santa Barbara County’s residents are currently under a shelter-in-place order, but Montecito residents face the highest stakes as they leave their homes. The area has reached maximum capacity for floodwater containment, officials said. 

“Today is Jan. 9, 2023, and we are exactly five years from the mudslide event — and our watershed is saturated,” fire Chief Kevin Taylor of the Montecito Fire Protection District said in a Monday morning press conference from the Santa Barbara County Employee University. “The community is at risk for a second debris flow from Thomas Fire scar.”

A hydrant is almost covered in mud, which came down hillsides from overnight rain in Montecito, Calif., on Jan. 9, 2018. Five years to the day later on Jan. 8, 2023, Montecito was evacuated due to heavy storms and flooding. 

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

He reiterated that if and when an evacuation order is issued, residents must act quickly.

Residents should expect shelter-in-place orders to hold until Tuesday, said Eric Boldt, a National Weather Service spokesperson.

“Some of the rain has been more than an inch an hour,” he added. “Flash flooding can continue within a burn scar. [Until] that subsides [the order] stays.”

In this 2018 file photo, sandbags line part of the Montecito Inn, which was damaged by the 2018 mudslide. On Jan. 9, 2023, the fifth anniversary of the slides, the town was evacuated.

In this 2018 file photo, sandbags line part of the Montecito Inn, which was damaged by the 2018 mudslide. On Jan. 9, 2023, the fifth anniversary of the slides, the town was evacuated.

Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

The National Weather Service also issued a flood watch, which includes high surf and high winds for Santa Barbara County. That warning is also expected to stay in place through Tuesday morning. Flood waters have already shut down Santa Barbara Airport, with “all commercial flights cancelled until further notice,” according to the airport’s website

In the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 9, 2018, mud and debris flowed down from the Thomas Fire burn scar in the Santa Barbara hills, creating a 15-foot-deep river of mud that crashed through Montecito. Entire homes were buried as deadly boulders the sizes of cars careened down the hillside.

Workers attempt to drain a section of Highway 101 that was flooded following a Jan. 9 mudslide in Montecito, Calif., on Jan. 12, 2018. On Jan. 9, 2023, exactly five years after the flood, Montecito was evacuated again. 

Workers attempt to drain a section of Highway 101 that was flooded following a Jan. 9 mudslide in Montecito, Calif., on Jan. 12, 2018. On Jan. 9, 2023, exactly five years after the flood, Montecito was evacuated again. 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

“We ask that you heed the evacuation order when it’s issued,” Taylor said. “We recognize that it’s hard — hard for you, your families and your businesses. 

“But we also recognize you’re strong.”

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