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Bill Macfadyen: El Niño Storms Santa Barbara County, and It’s About Time

NoozWeek’s Top 5 keeps a weather eye out, but includes two restaurant hits, three fires and welcomes Noozhawk’s brand-new Sports section

El Niño? Bring it. Click to view larger
El Niño? Bring it. (Mike Eliason photo)


Since Noozhawk’s founding in 2007, we have been very interested and invested in educational opportunities for our community’s youth. Sports can — and should — be a vital part of that education.

High school sports teach life lessons like teamwork, discipline, hard work and competitiveness. They teach you how to win, and they teach you how to lose.

Long after the aches and pains heal, the stadium lights dim and the cheers fade, student-athletes will continue to rely on the lessons they learned on the fields and the courts and in the pools of high school sports. I know because I was one of them.

In late December, we were disappointed to learn that Presidio Sports — the Noozhawk of local sports — would be ceasing publication after seven valiant years of covering athletes at all levels on the South Coast.

What’s more, the gutty little website’s departure would leave the venerable Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table without a stalwart supporter for the extensive role the nonprofit organization plays in the local sports community. Noozhawk was approached about filling the void — something my partners, Kim Clark and Tom Bolton, and I have some experience with. We decided it was our time to get back in the game.

As pioneers ourselves, we know how arduous a journey it was for Presidio Sports publisher and co-founder John Dvorak, and I understand better than most how difficult it was for him to make his last call. Noozhawk is grateful to have this opportunity to succeed and build on his legacy.

Presidio Sports’ contribution to the local sports scene has been profound, but even more important, with John’s vision and leadership, it covered our community with integrity, passion and respect. Theirs is an example you have my word that we will follow.

We’re excited to welcome Barry Punzal, an old friend and colleague, as sports editor of Noozhawk’s newest section. And we look forward to working with our newest partner, the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, in what we believe will be a successful and mutually beneficial endeavor for our community.

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So El Niño is a thing, after all.

There were 117,894​ people who read Noozhawk this past week, mainly for the weather. Five of the week’s top 10 stories were storm related, including four of the top five, so I’m lumping the weather ones together as No. 1.

Let’s slosh right in with my take on your top stories:

1. Roadway Flooding Near Solimar Burn Area South of Carpinteria Causes Highway 101 Closures​

We’ve been waiting for rain, hoping for rain and praying for rain, and, boy, did we get it. Sheets of rain, in fact, pierced by lightning and punctuated by thunder.

Successive storms rolled in to Santa Barbara County on Jan. 5 and 6, dumping more than 3 inches of rain on our parched piece of paradise — or most of it anyway. Santa Maria logged less than an inch and Lompoc recorded under 2 inches.

Lightning strikes twice. Click to view larger
Lightning strikes twice. (Mike Eliason photo)

The deluge caused street flooding throughout the South Coast and was blamed for numerous traffic collisions, including a serious wreck on Highway 154 near Highway 101 north of Los Olivos and a jack-knifed big rig on southbound Highway 101 near Garden Street in Santa Barbara.

Southbound Highway 101 was closed at Seacliff for nearly five hours Jan. 5 after mud and water buried the roadway near the Solimar Fire burn area. Traffic was diverted to Pacific Coast Highway until Caltrans could clean up the mess.

Scattered power outages also were reported throughout the county.

There was little property damage, but nearly a dozen people had to be rescued from cars stranded in high water at the intersection of Calaveras Avenue and Calle Real near Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta.

Although a welcome respite, the downpours did little to turn the tide of California’s years-long drought. According to my friend, Tom Fayram, the county’s deputy public works director, the impact on local reservoirs has been minimal

“It’s a good start, but we’re going to need a lot more rain than this to overcome this drought,” he told our Tom Bolton. “Really, it will take more then one good rain season.

“We’re kind of laying the groundwork for, hopefully, runoff into the reservoirs later this year.”

Fayram said 10-15 inches of rain are needed before the reservoirs — Lakes Cachuma, Gibraltar and Jameson — are collecting enough runoff to make a difference.

Another storm is expected to strike the night of Jan. 8, and high surf is forecast through the weekend.

Thank you to the many Noozhawk readers who shared their pictures and videos with us. Click here for a photo gallery from the storms, and click here for a photo gallery of the post-storm high surf.

And thank you to the readers who signed up for our free Noozhawk breaking news text alerts. Click here to subscribe to the texts to your cell phone.

Meanwhile, watch for Noozhawk’s El Niño special section, which is intended to be your guide to preparing for and — if need be — recovering from this winter’s El Niño season.

The section launches next week and is sponsored by Montecito Bank & Trust, Cox Communications, Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, Schipper ConstructionAmerican Red Cross, SERVPRO of Santa Barbara, Action RoofingDirect Relief, the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce and Pearl Bay Corp.

Click here for more information on becoming a sponsor. We have one or two positions still available.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company owner Adam White focuses his restaurants on seafood, with one Mexican accent. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
Santa Barbara Shellfish Company owner Adam White focuses his restaurants on seafood, with one Mexican accent. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

2. Owner of FisHouse, Boathouse and Santa Barbara Shellfish Company Reflects on Hard-Fought Success​

Adam White stays busy running four popular Santa Barbara restaurants — Santa Barbara Shellfish CompanyFisHouse Restaurant, Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach and Casa Blanca Mexican restaurant — but our Gina Potthoff caught up with him for a feature on the family empire that has had its share of ups and downs.

White’s dad, Tom, took a roundabout route into the local restaurant business some 30 years ago, and was nearly forced out several times. The seemingly contradictory traits of perseverance and a laid-back attitude eventually paid off for the father-son team. 

“I can’t really tell you why it started to work,” the younger White told Gina. “It was like catching a wave. We just hung in there. I got quite lucky.”

The feature certainly connected with readers, who kept it in second place before a second storm story edged past late in the week.

This is Santa Barbara. We don’t forage. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
This is Santa Barbara. We don’t forage. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

3. BizHawk: Changes Coming to Santa Barbara Public Market in 2016

Thousands of cars pass through the intersection of Chapala and West Victoria streets each week, and drivers stopped at the traffic lights there have little to look at except for two full walls of windows at the Santa Barbara Public Market on the corner.

What do they see inside? The backs of industrial shelving that make the place look like a mundane warehouse store instead of a bustling hangout with multiple choices of food and drink.

At long last, that’s about to change. According to Marge Cafarelli, the market’s owner, the Foragers Pantry grocery store behind those windows is closing down and will be replaced by a beer garden in the spring.

I’m no restaurant professional, but I have to believe that the sight of people enjoying themselves will be a much bigger draw for what still is one of downtown’s too-hidden gems.

A-frame flames end up a total loss. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)
A-frame flames end up a total loss. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

4. 2 Escape Fire That Destroyed House Near Montecito Country Club

A spectacular fire that lit up the Montecito sky early on Jan. 4 left two residents homeless after it burned down their house near Montecito Country Club.

A hot, metal chimney stove pipe was blamed for the fire at the two-story house in the 800 block of Summit Road, off Alston Road.

Santa Barbara Fire Capt. Gary Pitney said heat from the stove pipe ignited the original wooden materials of the roof, which had been covered over with metal panels.

The structure was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters got there, Battalion Chief Jim McCoy told Noozhawk, not long after arriving on the scene about 12:30 a.m.

He said the size of the blaze, the unusual A-frame style of the house and a very steep roof complicated matters, so significant backup was called in.

Eight engines were deployed from SBFD and the Montecito and Santa Barbara County fire departments, squeezing onto the narrow street along with an SBFD ladder truck.

McCoy said firefighters had to peel back each metal roof panel to make sure there were no lingering flames underneath — a process that took until about 4 a.m.

The two tenants escaped safely, but a firefighter was treated for minor burns at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The American Red Cross provided the residents with housing assistance.

Spray again? (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)
Spray again? (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

5. Two ‘Suspicious’ Fires Under Investigation in Santa Barbara

A pair of “suspicious” vegetation fires caused a stir on Santa Barbara’s Eastside early on New Year’s Day, but authorities have few clues to pursue.

According to SBFD investigator Ryan DeGuilio, two burning palm trees were reported about 3 a.m. in the 800 block of East Haley Street near Milpas Street. The flames damaged a vehicle parked on the street nearby.

A half-hour later, he said, vegetation and shrubbery “caught fire” at a house near the corner of East Figueroa and Garden streets, only steps away from Santa Barbara police headquarters.

“These are definitely suspicious fires,” DeGuilio told our Tom Bolton. “They were fairly close to each other, and could possibly be related.”

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our top story this time last year? Man Killed After Fleeing Wreck on Highway 101 in Santa Maria.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

You can quote me on this: A “Collection” of “Unnecessary” “Quotation” Marks.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Now you see it ... wait. What?!

(SECTION 51 2.0​ video)

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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