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Response to pnwmom (Reply #38)

Sun Feb 18, 2018, 04:19 AM

61. Our neighborhood in Ventura was lucky; afaict we were saved by water-dropping helicopters...

But it came so close, and of course the hills around us are dangerously denuded. There are whole streets where we looked at houses for sale last spring -- just gone. Our understanding from insurance adjustors is that it will take homeowners a solid two years before they can rebuild and move back into a new home where the old one was.

The extent of the fire was at least 40 miles lengthways, probably more. The worst disaster was 30 miles away in Montecito. The half inch of rain a month later that fell on us in Ventura over 10 or 12 hours did little good, but no harm. The same half inch balled itself up into a freak weather cell that got dumped all at once onto the fire-bare hills of Montecito and turned liquified earth into a debris flow that swept houses, cars, and boulders the size of houses and cars along. The mind reels.

The freeway was absolutely closed, buried. The workaround to get from Ventura to Santa Barbara (usually an hour commute or less along the 101) was a 6-hour detour over and around the mountains. For awhile a boating company called Island Packers took people by sea who really needed to make the trip.

To my astonishment, the freeway was reopened in 2 weeks. Montecito is still trying to dig out. People whose homes were spared are back. Businesses too, those that were spared. Volunteers from surrounding communities are forming "bucket brigades" to help people retrieve what they can, and if possible to save homes otherwise still standing from being utterly ruined by the mud that deluged them. Facebook posts of items found along the debris flow are an attempt to reunite survivors with their possessions. In one case an Olympic Torch was unearthed. In another case a piece of statuary belonging to a couple who died was identified by family members who will at least have that to remember them by.

The size of some of the boulders is so immense that they actually have to be dynamited to get them out of the way. I read an article about a science paper some published several years ago analyzing how this could happen, and using as an example a nearby place called Rocky Nook Park. As always, it's a matter of geography, geology, and freak weather, and according to the 2 scientists who did the research, it's something like a thousand-year event.

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