Here We Go Again
This is being written as much of Montecito is under a Mandatory Evacuation Notice. Tuesday, January 15, at 10 am sharp, Montecito Inn hotel guests were required to check out, as were Four Seasons Biltmore guests. Traffic continued to move along critical roadways for a while, but many of those roads began to be closed to traffic; it was difficult, for example, to get to the upper village from Coast Village, as Olive Mill, then Hot Springs were blocked off around 11 am. The Montecito Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, along with others in an official capacity – stung by the unfortunate events of January 9, 2018 –reacted cautiously to weather reports and, really, had no choice but to call for the evacuation of residents in the “red zone,” delineated by the latest FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) map. California Highway Patrol officers, while not stationed at the barriers, monitored much of the traffic, as Highways 101 and 192 are state controlled. Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputies were also patrolling surface streets.
At a time when we should be applauding abundant rainfall, we have come to dread weather forecasts predicting any precipitation more than, say, two inches within a 24-hour period. Which is too bad, as this rain is the best and earliest we’ve seen for a decade. But the caution is understood by all and approved by most.
Here’s what the Sheriff’s Department says you should know: “Due to the configuration of the evacuation areas aligning with creeks and channels, road control points will be limited. Nevertheless, the evacuated areas are closed.” By which, they mean that while one could still access the roads, non-residents were advised to avoid the area and could possibly be stopped (cars with out-of-state plates, for example) and turned around. “Law enforcement will be using roving patrols to protect property,” the Sheriff’s Department continues, “and enforce the closures. Anyone in these areas who does not belong will be questioned. Those who live adjacent to evacuation zones should avoid using roads in those areas. These roads could become unsafe during peak periods of rain. People from outside the evacuated communities should avoid the general area during this emergency.” All of which means, of course, that Montecito loses another day or two or three of business at a time when recovery has just begun to take hold. When this is over, remember: buy local!
The Partnership for Resilient Communities has been working overtime to begin the job of constructing the first six of a planned 11 flexible steel nets to buttress and enhance Montecito’s various debris basins and expanded creek beds. The first such devices were planned for next week and could possibly still go in, but the weather is likely to prevent their immediate installation.
In a different world, these life-saving devices would have been approved and installed before the start of the rainy season, but this being California, the process – expedited in record time as it was by the Partnership – was still too lengthy.
But, we can hope those nets, which are designed to more than double the holding capacity of our current set of debris basins, go up quickly. Nearly $3 million has been raised by residents (Montecito Journal has donated $1,000) in order to begin installation, but $4 million more is needed to complete the task. So far, no county, state, or federal funds have been obtained, though various grants are in the works. We are told by the company that makes the nets that this is the first time they’ve ever contracted to install the devices with private individuals rather than a governmental entity. It is imperative that this project be successful. In that cause, we are reiterating last week’s call for donations from private individuals and businesses.
If you would like to meet or speak with a Partnership member to discuss a gift, please call Alixe Mattingly at (805) 886-6584. You can also e-mail either firstname.lastname@example.org or Hollye Jacobs at email@example.com, or go directly to the www.partnershipsb.org website, click on “donate” and make a tax-deductible donation to the Santa Barbara Foundation.
You can also simply drop off or mail a check, payable to Resilient Communities, at the offices of Joe Cole, Attorney, 1482 East Valley Road, Montecito, 93108, in the Upper Village, a few doors north of the Post Office.