Thousands of Californians ordered to evacuate ahead of powerful storm

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.

16 PHOTOS
The most devastating images from California's wildfires
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The most devastating images from California's wildfires
Thomas wildfire burns above Bella Vista Drive near Romero Canyon in this social media photo by Santa Barbara County Fire Department in Montecito, California, U.S. December 12, 2017. Courtesy Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Fire fighters attack the Thomas Fire?s north flank with backfires as they continue to fight a massive wildfire north of Los Angeles, near Ojai , California, U.S., December 9, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A firefighter is working on extinguishing the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire, in Bonsall, California, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Firefighters work at the top of a hill as the Lilac Fire burns through Bonsall, California, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Firefighters battle to save one of many homes burning in an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Fire engulfs horse stables after an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop on the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire in Bonsall, California, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A horse which was left behind after an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, is seen in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Burned up trees glow red in the dark after an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Firefighters battle flames from a Santa Ana wind-driven brush fire called the Thomas Fire in Santa Paula, California, December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Area residents walk through a neighborhood destroyed by wildfire in Santa Rosa, California, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
An aerial shows damage caused by wildfires in Santa Rosa, California, U.S October 11, 2017. Picture taken October 11, 2017. REUTERS/DroneBase
A wildfire is shown from the air near Atlas Road during an operation to rescue people trapped by wildfire in Napa, California, U.S., October 9, 2017. Photo taken October 9, 2017. Courtesy California Highway Patrol/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
The Canyon Fire burns hillsides in Corona, California, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
The Canyon Fire burns hillsides above houses in Corona, California, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
Firefighters watch a helicopter make a water drop on a wildfire burning behind the Getty Center in Mandeville Canyon in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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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.”

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