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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 3:10 am | Fair 39º


Bill Macfadyen: After Weeks of Fire and Flood, Noozhawk Readers Give In to Sirens’ Song of Rollover

NoozWeek’s Top 5 flashes flood evacuations and bridge work, Ted Johnson’s inexcusable death, and a personal story — but, first, a request

Now there’s an old familiar sight. Click to view larger
Now there’s an old familiar sight. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

Noozhawk’s traffic continues to fly off the charts, and I want to thank you for your readership, support and encouragement. Given the life-and-death events of the last two months, we know you’re depending on us to deliver accurate, thorough reporting you can rely on.

We’re all in on our mission, and that challenge is what gets our team up every morning and keeps us committed to real professional journalism deep into the night.

To undertake this work with fidelity requires resources — time and money — as well as an unfailing dedication to do more than what is merely necessary to produce quality reporting that is consistently objective, reliable and honest.

At Noozhawk, we believe local news should be free and instantly available to all those interested. But producing such content is costly, and that’s why we need your support now more than ever.

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As mentioned, our traffic has been on a torrid pace, although our trajectory leveled off this past week. According to our Google Analytics, Noozhawk had 149,120 readers over the last seven days, a daily average of 21,000.

What follows is my own take on the Top Five stories you were reading during that period. Whether you are unfamiliar with my Best of Bill column or just an FBI agent, this is my opinion piece, and not a news article.

1. 2 Injured in Hit-Run Rollover Crash on Hollister Avenue Near Goleta

Nearly a month ago, deadly flash flooding and mud flows slammed Montecito while effectively cutting off Santa Barbara from the south. It will take years to recover from the damage — emotionally, financially and physically.

One sign that a sense of “normalcy” is returning to Noozhawk? A rollover crash as the week’s top story.

Just before midnight on Jan. 26, a two-vehicle collision was reported on Hollister Avenue near the Magnolia Shopping Center east of Goleta. One of the drivers apparently fled the scene on foot, becoming — literally — a hit-and-run suspect.

Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said the wreck occurred around 11:45 p.m. just west of Walnut Lane. A Ford Contour sedan ended up on its roof while a Toyota 4Runner crashed through a nearby cinder-block wall.

The sedan driver and a passenger in the 4Runner suffered minor injuries in the collision, and were transported by American Medical Response ambulances to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The alleged driver of the 4Runner vanished into the night, however, prompting a search of surrounding neighborhoods by sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. Any guesses on which of the three people involved looks guilty?

2. Caltrans, County Need to Replace Multiple Montecito Bridges After Storm Damage

You won’t be crossing this bridge when you come to it — not for a long time. Click to view larger
You won’t be crossing this bridge when you come to it — not for a long time. (Santa Barbara County Public Works Department photo)

Navigating around Montecito has been quite a challenge since the Jan. 9 flash flooding and mud flows. But while bottlenecks and congestion have been easing as more streets reopen, destroyed and badly damaged bridges will be unavoidable roadblocks for the foreseeable future.

Crews from Caltrans and the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department have been busy checking the structural integrity of the area’s bridges. Several will have to go, and at least one is already gone: The East Mountain Drive bridge east of the heavily damaged San Ysidro Ranch. You can blame the debris flow for wiping it out.

Caltrans says it must replace the East Valley Road bridges over Montecito Creek near Parra Grande Lane, over Romero Creek near Ortega Ridge Road and at Toro Canyon near Toro Canyon Road. The three spans currently are open only to emergency and utility vehicles, but eventually will be barricaded with locked gates.

Damaged bridges with one-way traffic control and stop signs include San Ysidro Creek on East Valley Road near Randall Road, Toro Creek near Ladera Lane and Arroyo Parida Creek near Carpinteria. The Arroyo Parida bridge reportedly has been condemned already and will soon be removed.

Other crossings with uncertain futures are the bridge on upper Ashley Road west of Riven Rock and the low-water Cold Spring Creek crossing on East Mountain Drive.

3. All Remaining Mandatory Evacuation Orders Lifted in Montecito Mud Flow Areas

Santa Barbara County says you can go home again. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County says you can go home again. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk photo via Instagram)

Nineteen days after Montecito’s deadly flash flooding and mud flows, and four days sooner than expected, authorities on Jan. 27 lifted remaining mandatory evacuation orders and allowed residents to return home — many of them for the first time since the Jan. 9 disaster drove them out.

Several of the hardest-hit neighborhoods are still severely restricted as Long-Term Exclusion Zones, including along Cold Spring, Hot Springs, Montecito and San Ysidro creeks.

The massive debris basin in Cold Spring Canyon has been the subject of a ginormous cleanout effort that is nearing completion.

Of the 23 dead or missing in the catastrophe, 19 were from neighborhoods along Hot Springs, Montecito and San Ysidro creeks in the controversial voluntary evacuation zone below East Valley Road/Highway 192. Four victims were killed in the mandatory evacuation zone above East Valley Road.

4. 91-Year-Old Pedestrian Dies of Injuries Suffered in Downtown Santa Barbara Collision

Ted Johnson, 91, of Montecito, and his wife, Shirley, were evacuated from Casa Dorinda after the deadly Jan. 9 flash floods and mud. And then things got worse. Click to view larger
Ted Johnson, 91, of Montecito, and his wife, Shirley, were evacuated from Casa Dorinda after the deadly Jan. 9 flash floods and mud. And then things got worse. (Snowbird photo)

A 91-year-old Montecito man who escaped last month’s flash flooding and mud flows was struck by an alleged drunken driver near Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Santa Barbara on Jan. 23. He died of his injuries six days later.

Ted Johnson and his wife, Shirley, along with fellow residents of the Casa Dorinda retirement community, were evacuated two days after the Jan. 9 disaster. He had been staying at La Quinta Inn & Suites, at 1601 State St., his daughter, Kylie Johnson, told our Tom Bolton. Shirley Johnson has been hospitalized since the evacuation.

Nicholas Burnell Hart, dumbass. Click to view larger
Nicholas Burnell Hart, dumbass. (Santa Barbara Police Department photo)

According to Santa Barbara police, Johnson was walking in the State Street crosswalk at Micheltorena Street, a block from his hotel, when he was hit about 7:30 p.m. by a vehicle driven by 26-year-old Nicholas Burnell Hart of Goleta.

Police said Hart, who reportedly already has two prior DUI convictions in the 10 years that he’s had a driver’s license, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, causing injury and driving on a suspended license.

On Feb. 1, he was arraigned in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on charges of second-degree murder; gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated; driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs causing injury, with the special allegation that death was caused; and driving on a suspended license, the District Attorney’s Office said.

Deputy District Attorney Wesley Meyer said Hart did not enter a plea but was ordered to return to court Feb. 15. He is being held without bail at County Jail.

Johnson’s daughter said her dad was a pioneer in the U.S. ski industry and a co-founder of the Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City.

“Almost everything at Snowbird — from the tram to the village to the spirit of Snowbird’s first employees — started with Ted,” Snowbird president and CEO Bob Bonar said in a statement. Bonar had worked for Johnson before the resort opened in 1971.

“It was Ted’s vision, intellect, endearing personality and persistence that brought Snowbird to life,” he said.

Johnson also was a lifelong pal of Bud Gaylord, a developer of The Cliff Lodge at Snowbird — and an uncle of my wife, Missy.

“In 1968, we hiked to the top of the mountain with Ted and wondered how we could ever ski that steep terrain,” Bud told me. “It was so beautiful, and we all talked about someday building a lodge.

“We broke ground in 1972 and opened Dec. 15, 1973. That Christmas we had 12 feet of snow in a little over a week!”

Johnson is survived by his wife, Shirley, children Kylie and Peter Johnson, and three grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at a later date in Southern California, Kylie Johnson said.


5. Judy Foreman: After Montecito Flooding, It Wasn’t Easy Adjusting to Life on Outside Looking In

Summerland Heights, an island unto itself. Click to view larger
Summerland Heights, an island unto itself. (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo)

When it comes to Montecito champions, no one is more authentic, ubiquitous or devoted than my close friend, Judy Foreman. Judy’s lived in the 93108 for decades, written about it for almost as long, and has covered it as Noozhawk’s style columnist since 2013.

Judy Foreman lets go. Click to view larger
Judy Foreman lets go. (Foreman family photo)

As a (mostly) empty-nester, she downsized several years ago and moved into a beautiful house in a neat neighborhood on Ortega Ridge in Summerland. She enjoys a commanding view of the Montecito Valley when she’s home, but you usually can find her down in the heart of Montecito, at either the Upper Village or on Coast Village Road.

That all changed Jan. 9 when the flash flooding and mud flows wiped out so much of Montecito, cutting access at Sheffield Drive, directly below her, and on Highway 101. The same storm blocked routes to Carpinteria.

In an instant, she was trapped — safe, but still trapped.

Much more upsetting, some of her dearest friends and oldest acquaintances were missing in the mayhem, and later would be found to have died horrifying deaths.

What happened here was hard on us all, but it was particularly difficult for Judy, who was cut off from her peeps, feeling helpless and unable to offer the gracious assistance for which she’s known.

But Judy’s one strong woman and she has an indomitable spirit. She soon made the most of her exile, exploring Carpinteria once that connection had been made and even venturing into Santa Barbara by train.

After a nearly three-week emotional roller-coaster, Judy sat down to write about her experience, and the words poured out of her. What she turned in was a raw, genuine and matter-of-fact account that captured details big and small. In her typical style, it was passionate but positive, and ultimately full of promise.

Judy’s columns are always well-read, but this one resonated more than most. She’s received thank-you notes and emails from all over the country, and I myself have fielded numerous compliments about her.

Writing her story was cathartic for her, and I’m grateful she shared it with you. It’s powerful. Read it.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Santa Barbara County Probation Chief Lupe Rabago Placed on Administrative Leave.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Feel like quitting your job? Here’s some inspiration, but with a language warning: Funniest ‘I Quit’ Letters to Dastardly Bosses.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Want to see the joy of victory? This is it. And you know what I think about soccer.

HT to Tim Philibosian, regional manager of Special Olympics Southern California, for sharing the video and to Chris Powers, who kickstarted a medal-winning celebration at the 2017 Special Olympics Fall Games in Fountain Valley.

Give Chris a foot and he’ll take a smile. He’s also the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table’s first recipient of the Chris Casebeer Special Olympics Athlete of Month Award. Way to go, Chris!

(Special Olympics Santa Barbara Fall Games video)

                                                                 •        •        •

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

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