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Residents, businesses in Southern California's recent burn areas prep for new major storm

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Residents and municipal officials in recent burn areas continued preparing for a major storm hitting SoCal on Thursday. (KABC)

Residents and municipal officials in recent burn areas continued preparing for a major winter storm hitting the Southland on Thursday.

Ventura County residents in the Thomas Fire burn area were taking no chances as the rain system moved toward the Southland. Homeowners were shoring up their properties with tarps and sandbags to keep the water moving past their houses.

Officials hoped that recently cleared debris basins would be enough to catch any mudflows triggered by the precipitation likely to begin Friday in the early morning hours.

"As long as we get a little bit at a time, I think everybody's prepared, and, you know, it's safe," said Ventura resident Rick Frye.

K-rails were placed along the most vulnerable areas, including fire-ravaged Foothill Road.

In Montecito, which was devastated by the massive Thomas Fire in December and by deadly mudslides the following month, sandbags were stacked outside the storied Montecito Inn. The hotel was inundated in January by mud and debris that filled the structure's parking garage.

MORE: River of mud rushes down Montecito street as family scrambles for safety
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Dramatic new video shows what it was like for one family at the moment a wall of mud hit their home.

Twenty-one people were killed in the mudslides, adding a heightened urgency to this week's preparations, which included the clearing of debris basins.

Located at the base of the area's foothills, the basins are seen as the first line of defense that can capture fallen trees, boulders and mudflows triggered by heavy rain.

Authorities believe they are as ready as they can be for the next round of weather and many residents say they are, too.

RELATED: Your Southern California seven-day forecast

"I think people realize that there is a lot of danger still, whereas before it was like we don't want to leave, like we'll just ride this out. Realizing the potential risk that can come from that, I think, is hopefully going to get people moving in the right direction if it comes time to go," said Lauren McCoy, a Montecito resident.

And by midday Thursday, it was officially time to go. Speaking at a press conference, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown announced a mandatory evacuation order effective immediately for those living near areas burned by the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fires.

Many locals say the past few months of fires, mudslides and evacuations have taken a toll on this small town's psyche

"When you hear about the rains coming, you kind of wonder, how strong is it going to be? How intense is it going to be? How much is it going to be? Hopefully we'll get enough to get the plants going, not enough for a mudslide," said Dwayne Sikorski, an area resident.

WATCH: Residents in La Tuna Fire burn area brace for possible mudslides
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Residents in the La Tuna Canyon Fire burn area grew anxious Thursday as a rainstorm headed squarely toward the Southland.

Meanwhile, in Burbank and the Verdugo Mountains, residents in the burn area of September's La Tuna Fire were also bracing for possible mudslides.

On Country Club Drive, one of several residential streets that was smothered with mud and debris in early January, damage was still visible on Thursday. Garages were wiped out and street signs were leveled to the ground when the winding road was battered by a river of mud.

"It was pretty amazing. I've never seen anything like it or heard anything like it. It sounded like a 747 was taking off out here when the spillway broke," described Pete Van Leeuwen, a Burbank resident.

That mudflow came down after the hills above had burned during the La Tuna Fire in September. It led to a viral video that showed a Prius being swept away in a debris flow.

MORE: Driver recalls terrifying muddy ride down Burbank road
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Desionne Franklin and his girlfriend were in his Prius when a river of mud picked up the car and swept it down the Burbank road like a bobsled.

Now knowing what can happen, some homeowners have protected their properties with sandbags, just in case more mud and debris comes down with the rain forecasted to fall Thursday afternoon, evening and Friday.

"It was pretty amazing. I think it could have been worse. It was pretty bad, but we didn't have the fire go all the way over the hills, didn't burn all the vegetation here," said Mark Tarizzo, a Burbank resident.

Tarizzo is among those who are hopeful after watching county public works crews spend weeks clearing the debris basins.

"Trucks been going up here left and right, so they dug it out. I hope they fixed it up there, so I think we're in good shape," Tarizzo said.

Burbank will be in even better shape if the area avoids any serious downpour.

"It looks like it's half an inch to an inch of rain, instead of an inch of rain falling in 10 minutes or whatever happened last time," Van Leeuwen said.

Residents living on Country Club Drive were evacuated for a couple days last time around. No evacuations were issued for the area on Thursday, though some residents said they're packed and ready to leave just in case.

Related Topics:
mudslidehomesevere weatherstorm damagewinter stormSanta Barbara County
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