Because we live on an island in the rainy Pacific Northwest, we've taken to traveling south for the winter, and sometimes not returning to the homestead until April, just in time to begin spring commissioning for the summer boating season. In past years we traveled in a small diesel motorhome, criss-crossing the USA, traversing the Baja Peninsula and the Sea of Cortez...and always stopping for weeks (or months!) along the California Central Coast. But when we bought the new boat, we decided to sell the motorhome, so this winter we rented a condo by the beach in the seaside village of Carpinteria, located ten miles south of Santa Barbara...and just a mile from Montecito. Yes, THAT Montecito, where on January 9 mud slides destroyed homes and took the lives of 20 residents.
Early that evening it started to rain hard, a real down pour; then in the middle of the night we were startled awake when our phones blared alerts warning of flooded roads and rivers. We went back to sleep and didn't learn about the horrific consequences until later that morning. By then the CHP had closed the coast highway. With all the ramps in or out of town closed off, we were totally stranded for the duration.
As someone who was born and lived much of his life in Southern California, the mudslides came as no surprise. Just weeks before, vast wild fires swept this region, leaving bare hillsides and burnt out neighborhoods. In this part of the state, if there are big fires, for certain there will be mud and debris flows when the rains come. It's the natural cycle --
I took these pictures in the days following the slides...woody debris from the fires washed down the mountains into the rivers and valleys, which soon overflowed their banks and flooded through the hillside neighborhoods of Montecito. Houses where swept off foundations, along with cars and everything else all the way out to sea where ocean tides and crashing waves dumped it all back onto the beach.
Being stranded in town for a week was one thing, but when the caravan of trucks and bulldozers rumbled into our quiet neighborhood and lined up to dump the tons of mud being scrapped off the roads and dug from clogged rivers...it became clear that the all the dirt, dust and noise was just beginning. As (bad) luck would have it, our patio was located right next to the county's staging area for all this work. So much for our winter getaway!
But wait! There's more to this sad story of disaster! Going back to December 17, when we left our island property, we stopped for the night in Tacoma to visit our son and daughter-in-law before continuing south. After a nice pre-Christmas dinner out we checked into a swanky downtown hotel. (Such sexy lighting!)
Early the next morning we packed up and departed Tacoma, taking I-5 South--our route to the Bay Area where we'd spend Christmas with the grandkids. But soon after getting on the freeway, traffic began slowing, then finally came to a complete stop. We could hear sirens in the distance but no signs of trouble ahead. We followed the cars in front as everyone worked their way to the nearest off-ramp. As we were exiting, Gwen gets a text message from friends in British Columba, asking if we're OK? Yes, of course we replied. Then Craig tells us that an Amtrack passenger train has just derailed and landed on the freeway! (Craig and Jan saw the news alert on Canadian TV and knew we were driving south on I-5.)
This tragedy occurred on the first day of our anticipated winter vacation...and just twenty minutes before we ourselves would have driven below the freeway overpass where the train hurled off it's tracks at a speed of 80 MPH. The detour that followed would take us nine-hours to cover a distance of 13 miles before getting back on the freeway! Considering the calamities to come in California, do you think we should have just stayed home?
We're Richard and Gwen (aka, Captain n' Cook), active boaters since moving to Seattle from Los Angeles in the early 90s. In that time we've owned several interesting vessels, but this blog will record our adventures on MV Kika, a Selene 47 Ocean Trawler.