Students Return, Classes Resume

By Scott Craig   |   January 18, 2018
Though students were evacuated, Westmont staff continued to work and pray for Montecito and all the people who have lost loved ones and homes

Westmont reopened its campus for students January 16 and resumed classes January 17 after the voluntary evacuation on January 9 following the Montecito mudslides. The Westmont campus sustained no damage from the storm, but students were voluntarily evacuated after college officials learned of water restrictions that would affect food preparation and sanitation. Crews delivered portable showers and bathrooms housed in 37-foot trailers to campus for student use, and a temporary kitchen was installed with a separate potable water source to provide food services to students.

Westmont secured four buses from Santa Barbara Airbus to drive students from Valencia around the Highway 101 closure to campus. Westmont shuttles also picked up students from the Santa Barbara Airport, train station, and Santa Barbara Harbor.

Water service for toilets, showers, and sinks was restored to campus January 14, but Montecito Water officials were not expected to certify it as drinkable until later in the week. Sanitation crews gave a preliminary but positive report on the integrity of the system that serves Westmont. Natural gas is being tested and is slowly coming online.

In a conference call to parents and students, president Gayle D. Beebe explained that the college community has an opportunity to show neighbors that we care and want to help serve them. “We can be great citizens at this time,” he said. “Let’s be at our best as we interact with each other and the community around us.”

The evacuation has required college officials to adapt the academic schedule for the spring term. These adjustments are not expected to affect the normal spring break, Easter holidays, and Commencement on May 5. The Presidents Day weekend break has been shortened to three days.

Westmont’s athletic director bravely rescued a friend who was trapped in her vehicle during the deadly mudslides. Dave Odell received a frantic cell phone call from the husband of Kathi King, who had escaped her swamped car and climbed a tree to temporary safety. “He was my guardian angel,” Kathi said of Odell. The story was featured on Fox News 11 and is on Westmont’s website.

Tom Walters, Westmont assistant professor of kinesiology, his wife, Kirsten, and their girls, Reese, 6, and Taylor, 4, evacuated to the Montecito Inn from their East Mountain Drive home, but it wasn’t far enough to be out of harm’s way. After narrowly avoiding being swept in the mudslide to the hotel parking garage, his family was eventually rescued by the National Guard.

The opening reception for “5X5: Celebrating Westmont College’s 80th Anniversary” was delayed until Thursday, January 18, from 4 to 6 pm at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art. The event, which includes coffee and cake, is free and open to the public. Meanwhile, the online auction that began January 11 at will continue through Friday, January 26, at 5 pm.

The monthly public viewing at the Westmont Observatory slated for Friday, January 19, has been canceled.


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