The Charger Account

Violent Winter Storm Rattles Santa Barbara County

North+Jameson+Street+on+Jan+11+as+the+neighborhood+was+evacuating.+The+mudslides+covered+the+roads%2C+preventing+residents+from+evacuating+earlier.
North Jameson Street on Jan 11 as the neighborhood was evacuating. The mudslides covered the roads, preventing residents from evacuating earlier.

North Jameson Street on Jan 11 as the neighborhood was evacuating. The mudslides covered the roads, preventing residents from evacuating earlier.

Photo credit: Hoku Kern

Photo credit: Hoku Kern

North Jameson Street on Jan 11 as the neighborhood was evacuating. The mudslides covered the roads, preventing residents from evacuating earlier.

By Maya Al Sabeh, News Editor

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The night of Jan 8, 2018 brought devastation to Santa Barbara County when a winter storm caused massive mudslides in the Montecito community. A week later, and the fatal event has claimed the lives of 20 people, leaving 3 individuals missing.

Dos Pueblos High School senior, Hoku Kern, was awed at the sight of the mud flooding into the neighborhood half a block away from hers.

“There was mud and debris everywhere, feet deep,” Kern said. “When we evacuated and drove through North Jameson street, there were cars that were beaten up and stuck in the mud and even a boat that had gone through the fence that separates North Jameson from the freeway.”

Due to the streets being blocked by the abundant debris and mudflow, Kern’s family was not able to evacuate until Thursday evening and, even then, they needed a police escort to navigate through the tragic site.

It was only a few weeks earlier that she had been evacuated due to the flames of the Thomas Fire, and now the process of evacuating was strangely familiar.

“Having evacuated before,” Kern said. “We knew we needed to be calm and prepared to get out quickly. As strange as it sounds, I was glad we had evacuated previously.”

Kern, a firm believer in the strength of the Montecito community, hopes that those who were affected get the support they need through these difficult times.

“After this experience, I am terrified and scared, yet grateful,”  Kern said. “I am so lucky that my house and my family are okay. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy, everyone who lost a home, a family member, or a friend.”

Effects of the mudslide propagated to the Dos Pueblos campus as several classes were led by substitutes instead of their respective teachers. As the Highway 101 closure commenced the morning of Tuesday Jan 9, 10 DP teachers who live south of the mudslide zone were unable to commute to school.

The school faced a so-called “sub-shortage” due to the lack of teachers in classrooms, causing several teachers with free periods to take on extra hours as substitutes for their fellow colleagues.

Kevin McKee, computer science and AVID teacher at DP, served as a substitute for English and Journalism teacher Katie Dwyer. He believes that the collegial environment of the DP staff made the process of finding substitutes easier to do.

“The district is always short of subs, so when they closed the freeway everybody kind of knew that we would be asked to substitute,” Mckee said. “We’re a very collegial staffwe get along, we like each other, we like to support one another, so most of us were willing to go the extra mile to help out, especially because things like this can happen to anyone”.

The Dos Pueblos PTSA has seen this event as an opportunity to give back to the community, asking DP families to donate to the 10 teachers affected by the mudslides. Rochelle Ringer, PTSA Vice President, hopes that DP can contribute to a fund which will help make the long commute back to school a bit more bearable.

“We’d like to provide funds for dinner for these staff members so that they can eat in Santa Barbara each night before heading home,” Ringer said.

The spirit of giving back continues at DP as Lauren Berlin, Assistant Principal, has been working on behalf of the Santa Barbara Unified School District to help families that were directly affected by the fatal mudslides.

Berlin remembers the shock and overwhelming worry she had felt after hearing about the extent of the damage caused by the mudslides.

“I just kept checking the news frequently, checking on social media for updates,” Berlin said. “When the event really magnified, I started worrying about students in our district and hearing about the lives and homes that had been lostit felt surreal.”

The extent of the impact on the school district is evident in the numbers. About 200 staff members were affected and all SB Unified schools have students who were impacted through the loss of their homes, belongings, or loved ones.

“Communications from the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendents came in late Tuesday night,” Berlin said. “So I just started planning to see how I could help with some of the crisis supports in the district.”

Fellow DP administrators have acknowledged that many students and families reside in areas affected by the flooding and have sent messages communicating their sympathies.

“DP students who live in Montecito are in our thoughts and hearts,” said DP Administrators in a recent notification sent out to DP families. “Thank you to everyone for practicing kindness in this difficult time.”

A Sunday night vigil was held on Jan 14 at the Santa Barbara Courthouse to remember those who lost their lives due to the flooding, giving members of the community a chance to heal after a week of unfortunate chaos.

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Violent Winter Storm Rattles Santa Barbara County