BAER report outlines risk of flooding in Los Padres burn area

Wesley Brown, News Editor

Last week a report by the Burned Area Emergency Response Assessment warned of the potential dangers rainstorms could cause in neighborhoods beneath Los Padres National Forest. The areas facing the most risk are along San Antonio Creek near the North Turnpike Road.

In response to the report, Santa Barbara County emergency management officials have warned of the impact the 3,126-acre wildfire from November could cause. The website readysbc.org has a risk map released by officials.

If heavy rains occur, there is a risk that pedestrian bridges and pipelines could flood into low-lying areas along with any debris from the higher ground.

According to Deputy Public Works Director Tom Fayram, since the November Cave Fire crews have had to empty San Antonio Creek’s debris basins of debris after every subsequent storm. As a result of this work there has been no debris flow yet. However Fayram does still warn of sediment blocking creek channels and causing floods.

According to County officials, risk of flooding could persist until vegetation returns to the burn area. Fortunately, the BAER assessment reported that areas of low soil burn severity, the majority of the burn area, would recover rapidly. Instances of severe soil burn will take three to five years to recover.

Heavy rainfall could also result in the debris blockage of Maria Ygancio Creek Culvert under Highway 154. Such a debris flow could affect the highway as was the case last year when debris from the Whittier Fire blocked a Highway 154 culvert and resulted in the closure of the road for weeks.

According to Caltrans District 5 spokesman Jim Shivers, Caltrans is prepared for such a debris blockage with cranes and pumps to unclog culverts. Shivers warned that “If the drainage system is impacted, full closure of the highway will likely be required.”

Shivers outlined plans by Caltrans to install an overflow culvert at Highway 154 and

Ygnacio Creek to prevent the flooding of roadways. He also stated that maintenance crews will patrol the highway during storms.

Caltrans crews have already been working to repair fire-damage to guardrails. In addition, they have been working to install k-rails to prevent landslides and debris flow from affecting the road.