With rain greeting students on first day back from winter break, the Santa Barbara County, specifically the city of Montecito, came face to face with another disaster.
After the largest wildfire that ignited last year in that same area along with areas surrounding it, a muddy outpour of river flow caused many evacuations.
“That’s bad timing, I mean to have a massive fire and to follow it up with a huge rain system, that’s just a recipe for a back-to-back natural disaster,” environmental science teacher David Whitman said. “It’s just a tragedy on top of a tragedy.”
According to an article on the National Public Radio (NPR) website, there were at least 17 people dead. Many homes were destroyed and its remains were left behind in debris upon debris days after the disaster.
“I’ve never seen that part of Montecito flood like this,” Charlie Crail, a resident of Montecito, said to NPR. “So if you hear of hundred-year events, this was a thousand-year event.”
Whitman explains the reasons a mudslide occurred referencing the vegetation, ground, and rain aspect.
“It’s awful, but it had to do with [the] loss of vegetation and the fact that the ground could not absorb [as much] water [that] was falling,” Whitman said. “There is no vegetation, [which] is a natural break or sponge. When the ground is covered in ash and smooths, all that water is just going to pick up speed and debris and going to keep pushing more and more stuff down the mountain.”
Both the residents and a Santa Barbara business initiated a lawsuit against the Montecito Water District and Southern California Edison for not putting up the electric poles cautiously and which led to the wildfire, making the mudslide sudden and deadlier.
Clean up is underway; however, due to more rain in the recent forecast, part of the 101 Freeway is closed, delaying efforts to clear up the mudslide.