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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 1:23 am | Fair 49º


In Wake of Deadly Flooding, Montecito Inn Shines a Spotlight on Community

Hotel sets up rooftop spotlight to commemorate 23 victims killed or missing in Jan. 9 disaster, and to act as beacon of hope as recovery continues

A spotlight pierces the night sky Saturday from the roof of the Montecito Inn, at 1295 Coast Village Road. The spotlight commemorates the 23 people killed or missing in the deadly Jan. 9 flash flooding and mud flows. Click to view larger
A spotlight pierces the night sky Saturday from the roof of the Montecito Inn, at 1295 Coast Village Road. The spotlight commemorates the 23 people killed or missing in the deadly Jan. 9 flash flooding and mud flows. (Jason Copus photo)

The Montecito Inn may not be near a creek but it found itself on the bank of a raging river running past it in the early morning hours of Jan. 9. Guests and staff of the historic hotel were evacuated as debris flowed around it.

Now, the still-closed hotel is shining a spotlight — literally — to honor the victims of the deadly flash flooding and mud flows, and to show its support for the Montecito community that lost so much that fateful day.

“For 23 hours over the next seven days, this light will shine brightly to memorialize the 23 people who have either lost their lives or are still missing, and for our entire community affected by the Montecito mudslides,” the hotel said in a statement to Noozhawk.

“Our desire is that it will act as a beacon of light to bring hope to our community in a time of darkness. We will heal together.”

Jason Copus, the family-owned hotel’s sales and marketing director, said the spotlight will be directed skyward between 6:30 and about 10:30 p.m. for the next week.

The hotel at 1295 Coast Village Road obtained a special-event permit for the display.

The flood and mud that hit the hotel with a glancing blow were part of a massive deluge that hammered the Montecito community. Twenty-one people were killed in the carnage, with two victims still missing. More than 100 houses were destroyed and hundreds more were badly damaged.

The Montecito Inn suffered no structural damage in the onslaught but was uncomfortably close to the extensive destruction around it when Montecito Creek erupted from its banks about a half-mile up Olive Mill Road and then ran right down the street.

A wall of water picked up everything in its path, including boulders, houses, cars, trees and other debris. Part of the flow spread out at the intersection of Coast Village Road, still more poured onto Highway 101 behind the hotel, but much of the debris continued all the way to Butterfly Beach.

One of the area’s most devastated neighborhoods was Montecito Oaks, a block east of Olive Mill Road and north of North Jameson Lane, roughly catty-cornered to the hotel.

“Thankfully, most of our damage was exterior and cosmetic,” said Jim Copus, the Montecito Inn’s operations manager.

Restoration work is ongoing at the 60-room boutique hotel, which is on track for a Feb. 16 reopening.

“As it turns out, Feb. 16 is also our 90th anniversary, so it would be very special to reopen on that date,” Jim Copus said.

Authorities allowed Coast Village Road to reopen two weeks ago, and many of the neighborhood’s restaurants were able to resume operations this weekend.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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