Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 8:38 am | Overcast 66º


Local News

Candlelight Vigil Draws Thousands of Locals for Comfort, Commemoration of Montecito Flood Victims

Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden aglow with grief and inspiration as community mourns dead, missing


Thousands of mourners, their faces reflecting the soft flickering light from small candles, quietly gathered in downtown Santa Barbara on Sunday evening, comforting each other with hugs and sharing tears over the 20 people killed in last week’s flash flooding that devastated Montecito.

A candlelight vigil for victims of the flooding and mudslides and an interfaith service were held at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden.

“Tonight, we need to mourn,” said First District Supervisor Das Williams, who represents Montecito.

“It’s breathtakingly horrible. Our community is going through something it has never gone through.”

Williams read the names and ages of those who died in the disaster, and then led a moment of silence in their memory.

Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said four people remained missing Sunday evening as crews continue to remove thick mud, boulders, uprooted trees and mangled vehicles from the heavily flooded areas.

Only weeks after the Thomas Fire raged across the mountains above Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito, torrential rains early on Jan. 9 sent flash floods roaring out of the burn areas and into neighborhoods throughout Montecito.

At least 20 people have died in the flooding, which injured at least 28 more.

More than 2,000 people are assigned to the flood area and are still combing through mud, debris, buildings, collapsed homes and mangled vehicles for additional survivors or victims, according to incident management team officials.

The deadly mudslides also destroyed at least 65 single-family homes, with another 462 damaged.

Eight commercial properties were reported destroyed and 20 damaged, according to incident commanders.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m scared of Mother Nature right now,” Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo told the crowd at the vigil.

Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, who is serving his first term in Congress after three terms as the First District supervisor, acknowledged the widespread effects.

“While this disaster was focused in Montecito, Montecito is our community,” he said. “It’s a painful time. This is a stressful and devastating time for our community.”

Montecito residents have hope that their neighborhoods will recover despite the destruction, Williams said.

“They’re exhausted, but they find ways to try to live life as normally as they can,” he said. “It’s inspirational.”

On Sunday, community members, many clutching pets, huddled in the Sunken Garden. Some were teary-eyed as they held their candles amid the drifting aroma of incense.

Santa Barbara resident Molly Steen, who graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 1996 and lives in San Roque, said she didn’t personally know any of the victims or those who are still missing, but participated in the vigil to support her community.

“We have our candles and matches,” she said. “We see a few familiar faces. It’s valuable for all of us to come together. We are not directly affected, but came to process what has been happening in our community. It saddens us.”

Teena Grant, a chaplain at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, was among those in attendance.

“I don’t have any words, especially for the children,” the Goleta resident said.

Grant, who has been working with Cottage Health for 18 years, declined to disclose details of patients.

“People who work in the hospital and first-responders get affected,” she said, dabbing her tears. “We take care of each other. Everybody helps everybody.

“It’s lovely to be working with such a great team, but it’s difficult.”

The vigil was organized by community leaders.

“We all know someone who is experiencing a heartbreaking loss,” Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said. “We are all grieving.”

On Saturday evening, mourners gathered in Carpinteria for a similar candlelight vigil. The closure of Highway 101 through Montecito and mandatory evacuation orders for the community have split the South Coast in two.

Santa Barbara County opened a Family Assistance Center at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara, 21 E. Constance Ave., for those who may have been affected by the storms. It will close Wednesday, Jan. 17, however.

Beginning on Wednesday, the county will open a new local recovery and assistance center to serve as a centralized location for resources and services to help community members recover and rebuild.

The center will be open from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara, 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez. The center, which will be open through Feb. 3, will be closed on Sundays.

Services are also offered at Hospice of Santa Barbara, 2050 Alameda Padre Serra, Suite 100, in Santa Barbara.

Hospice of Santa Barbara is collaborating with local schools, first-responders, government agencies and the American Red Cross of Central California-Pacific Coast chapter to provide counseling. Click here for more information, or call 805.563.8820.

All community members are welcome.

“Everyone in our community is hurting,” District Attorney Joyce Dudley told attendees at the vigil. “Together we suffer, and together we can seek out opportunities to be kind to each other.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >