Updated on January 13, 2018
The Victims of the Montecito Mudslides
Montecito is one of the most affluent communities in the world. It is beautiful. It is devoid of strip malls and chain restaurants. It is nestled in the foothills of incredible nature and wildlife that include peaks almost 4000 feet tall and the ocean stretching out to the Channel Islands. It frustrates me that such a community would disregard the evacuation warnings when the rains were so clearly forecast to come. The mudslides in Montecito were predicted.
I watched a press briefing held on the Friday before the floods that accurately stated the potential of the upcoming storm. They stated that this situation is not like the Thomas Fire where you may have hours to leave the area. They said you may have 10 minutes or less to get to safety.
I spoke to my father-in-law, who lives in Des Moines, IA, about the severity of the situation mere hours before the rain was expected to be heaviest because I didn’t want him to be worried by the news reports that seemed so likely to come. (I do live in Santa Barbara County.) But only 10-15% of Montecito residents felt the warning was worth taking seriously despite the press briefings, news reports, weather forecasts, the alerts on cell phones of almost all Santa Barbara County residents, and the sixty people that did door to door evacuation warnings for five hours on Monday.
I don’t live in Montecito, but I do live in Santa Barbara County. I am very familiar with the area from years of living within miles on Montecito and spending my free time running some of my favorite trails that lie in the front country of the Camino Cielo ridgeline, many of which were burned in the Thomas Fire. I can’t help but feel a connection with the area even though I have no direct connection with the people that live there. Tonight, I found a Los Angeles Times article titled “Who they were: The victims of the Montecito mudslides.” It is the most heart-wrenching and sad article I have read. This is a tragedy, not because it is one of the most affluent communities in the world or because it is such a beautiful location, but because it was an avoidable situation that affected real human beings. Some of those human beings spent their time making their community and the surrounding communities a better place. Some were too young to ever have that chance. Now they are gone.