Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 3:59 am | Mostly Cloudy 55º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Carpinteria Looks to Rebound from Mess, Isolation After Deadly Floods

With Highway 101 reopened, businesses are hoping to bounce back from dismal January

Linden Avenue in downtown Carpinteria has been relatively deserted in the wake of the Jan. 9 flooding and freeway closure. The community is working to prepare for new storms, clean up and help businesses bounce back. Click to view larger
Linden Avenue in downtown Carpinteria has been relatively deserted in the wake of the Jan. 9 flooding and freeway closure. The community is working to prepare for new storms, clean up and help businesses bounce back.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The city of Carpinteria is focusing on clearing debris out of creeks, the salt marsh, storm drains and debris basins in order to get the flood control system working again after the Jan. 9 storm that killed more than 20 people and damaged hundreds of homes in neighboring Montecito. 

Some of the mud is being disposed on Carpinteria State Beach near Ash Avenue, according to the county Public Works Department.

Since the storm, crews have been working to clear clogged basins to prevent the future risk that strong weather events will cause destructive flooding in Carpinteria.

“That’s why cleaning them out is an urgent priority,” City Manager Dave Durflinger told Noozhawk. “We do know that there remains significant risk of flooding due to the post-fire conditions in the foothills."

Durflinger said a report is being prepared that includes a post-storm analysis of the fire-denuded mountainsides to help the city prepare for future storms.

“The Thomas Fire has resulted in soil and debris conditions in the foothills that significantly increase the risk of flooding,” Durflinger said. “It’s expected that this risk will remain to some degree for years to come.”

Carpinteria was isolated after flooding and mudslides blocked Highway 101 and frontage roads, and emergency responders worked to rescue people out of creeks and vehicles in the early morning hours of the storm. 

Even though damage to the area was relatively minor, Cox Communications cable, internet and phone services were out for four days, according to Durflinger, and cell phone service was spotty for days until a booster was set up. 

Zoe Iverson, who has lived in Carpinteria for more than 20 years, said the radio was vital to receiving information during the disaster when cell phones and other means of communications failed.

Carpinteria Creek flows after the Jan. 9 storm, which caused much less damage in the community compared to neighboring Montecito. Click to view larger
Carpinteria Creek flows after the Jan. 9 storm, which caused much less damage in the community compared to neighboring Montecito. (City of Carpinteria photo)

“We had no visuals,” Iverson said. “We were hearing what was happening, but it was a hundred times worse when I finally saw the pictures.”

Iverson said the roads were clear from her home off Camino Trillado to the downtown Carpinteria corridor, which was empty.

“It had an eerie and empty feeling for a few days,” she said.

While the city is no longer isolated by the Highway 101 closure after the deluge, there remains a low number of shoppers milling around downtown Carpinteria, said Clothesline Boutique and Gallery owner Nicole Williams.

“January is worse than December — it’s January in disaster mode — people are going to restaurants, but the shopkeepers are feeling the pinch,” Williams said. “It has been quiet. We are open, and trying to get back in the groove.” 

Williams closed her store for 12 days during the Thomas Fire, and had to evacuate from her Montecito home ahead of the Jan. 9 storm. 

Traffic on Highway 101 has been backed up between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria since it reopened. Click to view larger
Traffic on Highway 101 has been backed up between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria since it reopened.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

January and February are typically slow sales months for retail, and sales have been significantly less than usual, she said.

“I’m hoping to bounce back a little quicker if locals make an effort to shop, and come to Carpinteria,” Williams said on Monday. “We are in the same community together, and we have to do what we can to keep us all going.” 

Foot traffic into stores isn’t the only slow-moving obstacle in Carpinteria.

Highway 101 has been heavily congested between Carpinteria and Santa Barbara since the roadway reopened, and not just because of all the dump trucks carrying loads of mud and debris out of Montecito. 

Looky-loo motorists are hoping to get a first-hand look at the mudslide destruction in Montecito, and residents and business owners are returning to the area, all of which is increasing congestion.

“Our engineer for the Olive Mill project says drivers are slowing to look at what is a high-profile location, given all the media attention and severity of the incident,” Caltrans District 5 spokesman Jim Shivers said. 

Shivers said there is considerable truck traffic and utility vehicles that need access to the Montecito area and various portions of Highway 192.

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.

Debris-hauling trucks use a bridge near upper Toro Canyon Road. Click to view larger
Debris-hauling trucks use a bridge near upper Toro Canyon Road. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

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