Gov. Gavin Newsom visits Santa Barbara.
Gov. Gavin Newsom introduces two of the National Guardsmen who are cleaning out the Randall Road debris basin during a visit to Santa Barbara on Friday. Credit: Serena Guentz / Noozhawk photo

Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the Randall Road debris basin in Montecito on Friday afternoon, following the major storm that slammed Santa Barbara County earlier in the week and ahead of the next storm that is set to douse the area this weekend.

About 80 National Guardsmen have been sent to help clear out the basin — a project that was built following the deadly Montecito debris flow in 2018 and was just completed in October.

Gov. Gavin Newsom visits Santa Barbara.
State Assemblyman Gregg Hart, front left, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assemblywoman Monique Limón and Congressman Salud Carbajal smile for a photo with some of the 80 people from the National Guard who were sent to help clean out the Randall Road debris basin. Credit: Serena Guentz / Noozhawk photo

An estimated 50,000 cubic yards of rocks, mud and debris filled the basin during the last storm.

“We built this debris basin in record time, and it was ready just in time for the storm that it was built for,” Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Das Williams said during a press conference in front of the debris basin.

“On behalf of my fellow supervisors and the people this basin protects, I want to thank you, Mr. Governor, for providing us with the 80 National Guardsmen that are cleaning out this basin, your request that you made yesterday for expedited disaster declaration in all categories for public assistance and individual assistance, and for being here with us in our hour of need.”

Newsom spoke about the resilience of the community — both now and following the 2018 debris flows, which killed 23 people, injured dozens more, and damaged or destroyed hundreds of houses.

“What happened five years ago, I think, is even more telling,” Newsom said. “It unveiled things that weren’t necessarily getting attention in terms of being in crisis.

“People started realizing there was a lot of food insecurity down here. People started realizing those disparities — not just in relationship to emergency and the response to emergency, but those disparities persisted in between emergencies.”

In addition to the resilience, the governor acknowledged the volunteers helping throughout the community — from the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade to the young girls he saw earlier in the day who were excited to help fill sandbags ahead of the incoming storm.

“That’s what community’s about. You can’t legislate that,” Newsom said. “That just manifests because people give a damn, and they haven’t given up, and to see the next generation of volunteers, see these young kids, that’s the inspiration.”

Newsom presented his state budget proposal for the 2023-24 fiscal year on Tuesday, and while visiting Santa Barbara on Friday, he highlighted the $8.6 billion earmarked for flood protection and other water issues — diversion, stormwater capture, groundwater replenishment and more.

Much of the rest of the state also has been experiencing severe storms, and while no deaths or major injuries have been reported in Santa Barbara County, Newsom noted that 19 deaths have been confirmed statewide during the storms.

He urged people to remain vigilant as storms are expected to continue, with about 1 to 3 inches of rain likely throughout the state this weekend.

“We’re resourceful, we’re rugged, we have grit — this community, in particular — and we’re here again, mindful though, that we need to quickly pivot in terms of our approach for hydrology, quickly pivot in terms of how we store water, how we replenish water, how we built our diversion systems, and how we protect the people that we serve in the state of California,” Newsom said.

Kelly Hubbard, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, also reminded people on Friday of the resources available to the community as the next storm approaches.

Those resources include the County Call Center at 833.688.5551, the resources and information online at readysbc.org, and the virtual Local Assistance Center and other storm recovery resources available to residents.

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Serena Guentz, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at sguentz@noozhawk.com.