California wildfire smoke
Talk about a brownout. (NASA Worldview photo)

Thank God for rodeo.

But I digress.

Noozhawk had an audience of 118,442 readers this past week, according to our Google Analytics. What follows is my recap of your Top 5 stories during that period, a span when — oddly — not one of our COVID-19 articles cracked even the Top 10.

That’s probably fine by senior Santa Barbara County officials, who continue to hide behind the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to avoid disclosing what, by law, should be public information about coronavirus victims.

I’m not quite ready to ride the HIPAA bronc, but the County Counsel might want to note that I’m climbing into the chute.

It’s our job as journalists to keep you informed on the issues affecting Santa Barbara County — a responsibility that is even more vital when public health is on the line.

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As a reminder, this is my opinion column as Noozhawk’s publisher. It is not a news story and I am not a reporter.

1. Satellite Launched From Vandenberg Air Force Base Captures Long Path of Smoke From California Wildfires

You don’t have to tell most Californians that wildfires are burning out of control all around us. We can see and/or smell the evidence for ourselves.

But a satellite view of a 1,214-mile trail of smoke provides a sobering perspective on the giant impacts from more than 650 fires — many of them lightning-caused — that have laid siege to the state for the last two weeks.

As our Janene Scully reported Aug. 21, NASA’s Terra spacecraft captured the smoky image as the satellite orbited high overhead as part of the Earth Observing System.

The satellite was launched more than two decades ago from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the West Coast’s inaugural Atlas IIAS rocket, which was built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

The picture itself was taken by the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), designed and built in Goleta by Santa Barbara Remote Sensing, formerly the System Division of Santa Barbara Research Center.

2. Serious Injuries Reported as Vehicle Slams Into Goleta Auto Dealership

Car crash

Not the kind of wheeling and dealing that Santa Barbara Nissan prefers. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

A high-speed crash demolished a BMW sedan, a fire hydrant and three cars at an Old Town Goleta auto dealership the night of Aug. 26. Somehow, the driver and his passenger avoided serious injury.

Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Daniel Bertucelli told our Tom Bolton that the driver of the BMW was traveling north on South Kellogg Avenue at a high rate of speed around 8:45 p.m.

He said the car clipped a fire hydrant as the driver neared Santa Barbara Nissan and then slammed into three unoccupied vehicles on the dealership lot at 425 S. Kellogg Ave., just south of Hollister Avenue.

The occupants were transported by American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, one with moderate injuries and the other for evaluation.

The driver’s identity was not disclosed.

The Sheriff’s Department is investigating the cause of the crash.

3. Santa Barbara’s State Street Closure an Overwhelming Hit Among Locals, Survey Finds

Downtown Santa Barbara

Downtown Santa Barbara has not looked this good in years. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

In a previous Best of Bill column, I mentioned that the Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has been working on another design charrette to “reinvigorate, reinvent, reimagine and repurpose” downtown.

As part of that innovative effort, the organization conducted an online survey to find out what locals would like to see. The 3½-week survey drew the participation of nearly 4,800 respondents, with a surprising unanimity on several issues.

Our Josh Molina reported on Aug. 23 that nine out of 10 people approve of the City of Santa Barbara’s closure of nine blocks of State Street to create a pedestrian promenade in the heart of downtown.

“The results mirror the feedback that I’ve received from neighbors, that the promenade is extremely highly regarded, and that it has totally revitalized and reinvigorated a ‘sense of place’ in our downtown,” Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said.

Among the other findings:

» 63 percent want more downtown housing

» 57 percent suggest one- and two-bedroom apartments

» 94 percent back a maximum building height of three stories

» 60 percent would consider living downtown

» 64 percent would want to keep their cars if they did

» 91 percent would pay extra to have a nearby parking space

Among the findings specific to the pedestrian promenade:

» 91 percent want music

» 84 percent want public art

» 63 percent want food trucks

» 50 percent want children’s play areas

» 40 percent want the closure extended beyond the current stretch between Haley and Sola streets

4. ‘Unhealthy’ Air Quality Recorded in Santa Barbara County, With More Smoky Conditions in Forecast

The aforementioned wildfire smoke was behind a massive cloud of “unhealthy” air quality that descended on Santa Barbara County on Aug. 20.

As our Giana Magnoli reported, the county Air Pollution Control District issued an air quality warning, advising that additional smoke impacts would linger over the next day or so.

“If you see or smell smoke in the air, be cautious and use common sense to protect your and your family’s health,” the APCD warning said.

“Everyone, especially people with heart or lung disease (including asthma), older adults, pregnant women and children, should limit time spent outdoors and avoid outdoor exercise when high concentrations of smoke and particles are in the air.”

No wildfires were burning in Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo counties at the time, one of the few regions to be fire-free in California.

Fortunately, air-quality conditions improved significantly by the weekend.

5. UC Santa Barbara Ranked Among the Top 50 Universities in World

Henley Gate

UC Santa Barbara is in good company among the world’s top universities. (Valerie Cantella / Noozhawk file photo)

UC Santa Barbara may have just made the cut, but it still earned a Top 50 spot in the 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities published by the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy.

As our Barry Punzal reported Aug. 20, UCSB was ranked 49th on the latest list, which continues a decade-long erosion in its still-elite ARWU scoring. The school was ranked 48 in 2019, 46 in 2018, 45 in 2017, 42 in 2016, 38 in 2015, 41 in 2014, 35 in 2013, 34 in 2012 and 33 in 2011.

UCSB is among five UC System universities in the Top 50, joining UC Berkeley (5), UCLA (13), UC San Diego (18) and UC San Francisco (21).

Harvard University was No. 1 in the world ranking of 1,000 schools, followed by Stanford University, University of Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cal.

The rankings are based on a half-dozen indicators, including alumni and staff earning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, highly cited researchers, articles published in the journals of Nature and Science, indexed articles, and the university’s per capita performance.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? C-130 Aircraft Crashes, Catches Fire at Santa Barbara Airport.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Paradise was nearly wiped out two years ago, but it has a plan to protect itself from the next, inevitable forest fire: The Price of Saving Paradise.

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

Cotton-ball clouds over Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, #mysecondfavoritechurchinmontecito … That and more are in my Instagram feed this past week.

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Watch It

You’ll watch this at least twice — because one of those times you’ll see nothing but Santa Barbara County’s South Coast flash before your eyes. HT to Mike McPhate of the California Sun. BTW, between Noozhawk and the Sun, you’ll get just about all the California news you need. Click here to subscribe.

YouTube video

(Esri video)

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Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
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Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
If you value dependable local reporting, will you support Noozhawk today?
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
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Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!

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

Bill Macfadyen

William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.