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Bill Macfadyen: Waves of Storm Leave Mark on Santa Barbara County, but Rain ... Not So Much

NoozWeek's Top 5 goes heavy on weather but includes drought conditions, road rage, a hit-and-run bicycle collision, and Uggs

(Jill Freeland video)

There were 97,086 people who read Noozhawk this past week. I’m expanding this week’s column to the top 10 stories, since the first four and six of 10 were storm-related.

1. Winter Storm Makes Waves — and a Few Surprises — as It Rolls through Santa Barbara County

The series of storms that pummeled Santa Barbara County by air and by sea last week made for some terrifying moments, but — fortunately — delivered no serious injuries.

Perhaps the most dramatic was the high-tide wave that crashed through a window at Moby Dick Restaurant on Stearns Wharf on March 1, sending a torrent of sea water across the floor.

Jill Freeland of Goleta and had just finished breakfast with her family when the wave struck.

“I really didn’t expect it to break,” Freeland told our Gina Potthoff. “Another swell beforehand came pretty close. We were just expecting some excitement.”

Freeland posted a video of the close encounter, which went viral on the Internet and sent a wave of web surfers to Noozhawk to read more.

Joining Gina on storm patrol that Saturday were our Tom Bolton and Lara Cooper, and a vast army of Noozhawk readers who eagerly provided tips and photos all day long.

Early that morning, Warren Thomas, president and CEO of, alerted us that the wave-battered Gaviota pier was in danger of collapsing. Al Fimlaid, an employee of his Standup Paddle Sports subsidiary, sent some pictures of the pier as it was losing a 50-foot stretch, almost back to its iconic boat hoist.

In all, about a third of the structure at Gaviota State Park was destroyed, said Eric Hjelstrom, sector supervisor for the California State Parks Department.

“Waves were breaking over top of the pier,” Hjelstrom said. “They took out some pilings, and once one goes, they all go down like dominos.”

Goleta Beach County Park bore the brunt of the day’s high tides and heavy surf, which left the popular park badly damaged and nearly demolished the beach side of the Beachside Bar-Café.

One wave that hit the restaurant swept an employee out to sea as he and co-workers furiously tried to board up the place. Although the man dislocated his shoulder as he was sucked underneath the water, he managed to grab on to a pier piling and was rescued.

Many thanks to Noozhawk contributor Zack Warburg for sending us some terrific photos and video of the angry surf as it plowed through the pier.

The Goleta Beach destruction provided a timely glimpse of what may be in store for the heavily used recreational area. On March 18, the county Board of Supervisors will be voting on a controversial “managed-retreat” proposal that would remove the rock revetments protecting the beach from erosion and likely will spell the end of the park.

Click here for a gallery of storm photos and video submitted by Noozhawk staff and readers. 

2. Despite Recent Storms, Drought Keeps Santa Barbara County in Stranglehold

Every little bit of rainfall helps in a drought. But after two days of continuous downpours last weekend, that’s about all we ended up with: A little bit.

Curious about the impacts, our Tom Bolton talked to local water and fire officials to see if the storms made much of a difference. What he found wasn’t all that encouraging.

“It was welcome and needed, but it doesn’t really affect the drought situation,” said Tom Fayram, deputy director of Santa Barbara County’s Water Resources Department.

He said there’s a danger that residents will get the wrong idea about the water shortage.

“It’s good news to get the rain, we really need it,” Fayram said. “My concern is it will lower people’s concentration that we’re still in a drought.”

It wasn’t a total loss. Lake Cachuma, which was around 40 percent of capacity before the storms, inched up by 557 acre-feet of water — an increase of ... about 0.2 percent. The lake remains more than 50 feet below spill level.

Unfortunately, March marks the beginning of the end of the rain season.

Fayram said that, absent a repeat of 1991’s “March Miracle” rains, which ended a prolonged drought and filled Lake Cachuma almost overnight, reservoir levels and water supplies will remain low at least until next year.

3. ‘Road Rage’ on Highway 101 Leads to Crash, 2 Arrests

A rolling “road-rage” incident escalated into a collision on Highway 101 in Carpinteria and ended with the arrest of two motorists.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the confrontation began about 1 p.m. March 4 when one pickup truck allegedly was following too closely behind another on the southbound freeway through Montecito.

As the vehicles neared Santa Claus Lane, several miles later, Officer Jonathan Gutierrez said one driver allegedly threw a “super-sized” soda through the open passenger window of the the other truck, hitting the passenger in the face and dumping soda all over the inside of the cab.

In retaliation, Gutierrez said, the second driver allegedly crashed the right side of his pickup into the left side of the other.

Another motorist called 9-1-1 to report the incident, which also was witnessed by CHP Coastal Division Chief Reggie Chappelle, who was in an unmarked patrol car. The first driver swerved off the freeway at the Carpinteria Avenue exit, Gutierrez said, but the second continued down the highway and eventually was pulled over by Chappelle near Mussel Shoals east of the Rincon.

After an investigation, both drivers were arrested. Gutierrez said Joseph G. Antonucci, 56, of Santa Barbara, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon for ramming the other vehicle, while Ryan Luna, 25, of Simi Valley, was charged with battery for throwing the cup. Both men were charged with vehicle-code violations. Antonucci’s bail was set at $30,000 and Luna’s at $5,000.

4. Bicyclist, 68, in Serious Condition After Hit-and-Run

A 68-year-old Santa Maria bicyclist suffered major injuries when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver the night of Feb. 27.

Santa Maria police Sgt. Jesus Valle said the man was riding his bike at North Broadway and Roemer Way about 11:30 p.m. when he was hit from behind by a vehicle. Officers found the victim unresponsive when they arrived at the scene.

The man, whose identity has not been released, was transported to Marian Regional Medical Center with major injuries, and he remained in serious condition.

The cause of the collision is under investigation. Anyone with information about it is asked to call Santa Maria police at 805.928.3781 x115.

Deckers Outdoor Corp. is offering brand-picked footwear at its retail store in its new headquarters in Cabrillo Business Park in Goleta. (Deckers Outdoor Corp. photo)
Deckers Outdoor Corp. is offering brand-picked footwear at its retail store in its new headquarters in Cabrillo Business Park in Goleta. (Deckers Outdoor Corp. photo)

5. BizHawk: Deckers Outdoor Corp. Opens Retail Shops at Cabrillo Business Park

If you’ve driven past Cabrillo Business Park in Goleta recently, you’ve no doubt seen the shoe brand logos adorning the side of Deckers Outdoor Corp.’s new headquarters at the corner of Hollister Avenue and Los Carneros Road. The logos are more than decoration, however; they’re intended to beckon customers to the company’s retail store on the premises.

The Deckers Brand Showcase at 250 Coromar Drive opened last month, with a grand opening planned for March 18. A diverse range of Deckers footwear is available inside, including UGGTeva and Sanuk.

“Shop in the store using iPads, customize your product, order online, ship direct to your home free of charge or pick up in-store,” said Dave Powers, president of OmniChannel for Deckers. “Whatever the preference, our goal is to align our capabilities to customer demand.”

                                                                        •        •

There are two ways you can eat ice cream. Are you a Daisy or a Cooper? HT to Jonah Goldberg.

(CoopersDogpatch 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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