Recovery and Rebirth

by Bob Hazard

Residents whose homes received little or no damage are gradually returning to their nests.  Homeowners, working alongside the Army Corps of Engineers, are assessing damage and beginning to restore one of the most beautiful communities on earth. With the exception of the two exclusion zones around Cold Springs/Montecito Creek and San Ysidro Creek, Mandatory Evacuation orders have been lifted.

“Rebuilding Montecito” Community Forum

On Friday morning, January 26, 2018, 1st District County Supervisor Das Williams, convened aRebuilding Montecito” community forum for interested Montecito community members. His opening remarks set the right tone:

“We put this event together because those who do not live in Montecito cannot fully understand the frustration, the exhaustion or the heartbreak of the Montecito community. This community is still in emergency status. Recovery will take patience. Neither fire, nor flood, nor the fiscal deficits at the County and State level will stop us from recovering as a community.”

Das is right. We do need to come together—to get residents back into their homes; to clear away the mud and debris from public and private property; to find safe places to put it; to restore the sewer system, drains and utility services; to rebuild where we can; to heal the scars and restore and improve the community’s infrastructure; to clean out the flood basins; to deal with the radical changes in Montecito’s topography; and to create a vision of where we go from here to make Montecito a better and safer community than it was before the Fire and the Flood—while preparing for the next catastrophic event, which surely will come.

Montecito Union School Reopens

After the Mandatory Evacuation notice for lower San Ysidro Road was lifted, the 415 Montecito Union Elementary School (MUS) students were able to return to their own campus at 385 San Ysidro Road on Friday, January 26, for the first time since class closures on January 7.

Turn on My Gas.  I Need a Hot Shower!

For many Montecitans returning to their homes, one of the biggest immediate challenges is getting the gas hooked up. SoCal Gas representatives are working their way through neighborhoods, house by house, to restore service.   You will be alerted by phone call or text when So Cal Gas is in your area.  You must be at home for service reconnection.   SoCal Gas has brought in representatives from throughout the region to assist with this very labor-intensive work.

Is My Water Safe to Drink?

Full restoration of a potable water system for Montecito and Summerland was originally set for Saturday, January 27, 2018, according to Nick Turner, GM, Montecito Water District. That date has now slipped to next Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

For the most current information on water safety, go to the Montecito Water District (MWD)website ( and click on “Latest News” for Boil Water Notices, High Chlorine Content/Super Chlorinated Water, System Flushing and Emergency Potable Water Distribution information.

Once the water is deemed safe by MWD, restaurants in Montecito will still need to get cleared by the Santa Barbara County Health Department before they can resume normal service. Restaurants such as Giovanni’s on Coast Village Road have opened with paper plates and plastic utensils, but no carbonated drinks, except from cans. Also open is Here’s the Scoop and The Village Cheese and Wine Shop, serving free food and free coffee to residents in the Upper Village who refused to leave and to hungry first responders. More on Patrick Braid, owner, and his heroism, later.

Mud Removal from Private Property: A Massive Clean-Up Still to Come

The Army Corp of Engineers estimates that 2,000,000 cubic yards of muck and mud will be removed from public roadways, creek and catch basins in Montecito. By way of reference, a standard dump truck carries 10 cubic yards of mud, meaning that cleanup will require the hauling of 20,000 truckloads of debris out of Montecito.

As individual homeowners begin the process of cleaning up their own homes, properties, pools, and private roads, even more debris will need to be hauled out of Montecito.  The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management is currently working on recommendations for disposition of debris that is currently on private property.

Current Housing Needs

An estimated 400 homes in Montecito out of an inventory of 4,000 have been destroyed or heavily damaged, mostly in the two long-term exclusion zones of Cold Springs/Montecito Creek basin and the San Ysidro Creek basin.  This near-term housing shortage will heavily impact the demand for rental properties in the area.

Sewer Service from Montecito Sanitary District

Diane Gabriel, General Manager and District Engineer for the Montecito Sanitary District, reports that sewer service to undamaged homes is available and reliable.

If your home has experienced significant damage, it is possible that your private sewer lateral may have been impacted with mud and debris. If this is your situation, please contact the sanitary district at (805) 969-4200, or e-mail  prior to using indoor plumbing. The district will work with your plumbing contractor in locating your sewer cleanouts for appropriate removal of mud and debris from sewer laterals, if necessary.

U.S. Mail Delivery, UPS and Federal Express

Homes where mandatory evacuations have been lifted are now receiving current U.S. mail deliveries, plus back mail, even though the Montecito Post Office in the Upper Village remains closed. Private mail and package delivery has now resumed. Amazon is back in your life, ladies.

If You Have Fire Insurance, Does It Cover Damage from the Mudslide and Flood?

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara County) has taken the lead in helping  residents whose homes were devastated or destroyed by the Thomas Fire or subsequent mudslides to ensure that fire insurance policies cover losses incurred by fire-induced mudslides.

Her proposed Senate Bill 917 clarifies that the Thomas Wildfire, the largest in California’s history, was the cause of the January 9 mudslide that cost the Montecito community at least 21 lives, destroyed or severely damaged 400 homes and evacuated thousands of local residents into temporary quarters.

Coast Village Road Re-Opening Update

by Bob Hazard

Coast Village Road is open to business owners/employees and the public today, January 23. This is the first re-opening in Montecito since the flood of January 9th. In order to preserve security in unoccupied residential areas and to keep emergency routes free of local traffic, there will continue to be blockades at the following Montecito checkpoints:

 US-101 Police Barricades in Montecito

US-101 Northbound AT SHEFFIELD DR. OFF-RAMP— No Exit

US-101 Northbound AT SAN YSIDRO RD. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

US-101 Northbound AT OLIVE MILL RD. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

US-101 Northbound AT HERMOSILLO RD. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

US-101 Northbound AT EVANS AVE. ON-RAMP—No entrance

US-101 Southbound AT SAN YSIDRO RD. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

US-101 Southbound AT OLIVE MILL RD. OFF-RAMP—No Exit

US-101 Southbound AT SHEFFIELD DR. OFF-RAMP—No Exit


Additional Police Barricades in Montecito














 Initial Residential Re-Population Zone: Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Today at noon marks the beginning of the “systematic and incremental” re-population effort of Montecito.  Homes in Emergency Evacuation Zone MTO O9, which runs from Eucalyptus Hill Road and Sycamore Canyon down to Coast Village Road, and a small portion of Emergency Evacuation Zone MTO 03, west of Hot Springs Creek, are being opened up to residents. Residents will have access to their homes, but will need to work with So Cal Gas representatives to have their gas turned on, and can then begin any clean-up work required on their own properties.

To identify your Emergency Evacuation Zone, check out the Emergency Information section of County of Santa Barbara website ( When the site opens, click on the Red Bar labeled “Interactive Evacuation Map,” which displays the Montecito Evacuation Zones. You will have to play with the “Zoom In-Out Feature” to find your own residence and its Evacuation Zone Code.

As part of Montecito’s re-population, the voluntary evacuation designation will be lifted north of the 101, west of Olive Mill/Mesa Road/Oak Road, south of Hot Springs Rd/Sycamore Canyon Road, east of Eucalyptus Tree Road/El Rancho Road/Camino Viejo Road/Summit Road/Hot Springs Road.

The mandatory evacuation warning will be lifted for the area bounded by Ayala Lane, Ashley Road north of Sycamore Canyon Road to the 700 block of Ashley, east of Cold Spring Road, south of East Mountain Drive to the 800 block of E. Mountain Drive.

Residents needing wheel chair assistance to return to their residences can call Easy Lift at (805) 681-1180.

2nd Residential Re-population Zone: Wednesday, January 24

Wednesday, January 24 will mark the 2nd residential area in Montecito to be re-populated.  Targeted areas are Evacuation Zones MTO 13, which runs from the 101 down to Channel Drive, and the eastern portion of MTO 14, which runs from Jameson Lane down to Hammonds Beach but excludes the areas around Bonnymede and Montecito Shores in the western part of MTO 14. The same rules as above would apply.

The Four Seasons Santa Barbara Biltmore, undergoing their second closure and restoration since the Thomas Fire began last month, reports that their re-opening date is estimated to be April 1.

3rd Residential Re-Population Zone: Possibly Within the Next 5 Days

Within the next five days, the re-populating effort is expected to move to a portion of Emergency Evacuation Zone MTO 11, likely including residential homes in Birnam Wood, Ennisbrook and Montecito Ranch, all having access from Sheffield Drive, south of 192 East Valley Road. The same rules as above would apply.

Next Steps After Re-Population

Residents who return to their homes will be eager to retain private contractors to clean up mud on private property. That muck and mud contains a high degree of toxicity from fecal matter from broken sewer lines; petroleum hydrocarbons from motor oil, gasoline and diesel engines; and even poison ivy.

According to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, precautionary measures should include a tetanus booster for those who have not had a tetanus shot in the last ten years; wearing long-sleeved shirts, boots and nitrile gloves, goggles; and taking other appropriate safety and protection measures.

Residents who hire contractors, or use their own employees in cleanup, or do work themselves are encouraged to contact the Public Health Department to learn about best practices.  Special questions can be directed to Dr. Charity Dean, the county’s Health Officer, at or by calling (805) 681-5152.

SoCal Gas Update:  Re-populated Residents

SoCal Gas has completed its assessment of the gas lines in Montecito and is currently making repairs near the Summit Road, Ortega Ridge Road, Hill Road and Coast Village Road areas. Natural gas service has been restored to 596 homes and 46 businesses along Coast Village Road as of January 22. Next up is restoration of service to some 600 customers west of Sheffield Drive.

Montecito residents are encouraged to visit the SoCal Gas booth at the Flood Recovery and Assistance Center at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara or go on-line at Customers should provide updated contact information by clicking on the yellow “Update Info” button at the website, or by calling SoCal Gas at 1-800-427-2200. As SoCal Gas restores natural gas to neighborhoods, individual customers will be contacted by telephone, text or e-mail. To restore gas, you need to be at home to provide access to a SoCal Gas representative.

SoCal Gas has announced that it will not charge customers for natural gas during the temporary service interruption. In addition, if your home has been destroyed, or rendered uninhabitable, SoCal will forgive your final bill. Nice gesture.

The Bridges of Montecito

The biggest barrier to opening Route 192/East Valley Road is the condition of the bridges over Montecito’s creeks. All have been evaluated for safety. Some may be repaired; others will need to be replaced.

Pulling Together

Rebuilding Montecito will require patience and innovation. No whining or complaining allowed.  Be aware that stress can take many forms, and we should reach out to support each other through this challenging time.

Sunday Night Update

by Bob Hazard

Body of Missing Woman Found

On Saturday morning, January 20, 2018 just before 10 AM, specially trained rescue dogs and their handlers recovered the body of missing victim Faviola Benitez-Calderon, age 28, in the 100 block of Santo Tomas Lane near Olive Mill Road. She was the mother of 10-year-old Jonathan Benitez, deceased, and his cousin, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez and her mother, 27-year-old Marilyn Ramos, also deceased. Survivors of this family tragedy were the father and the baby, who was recovered at some distance downstream from the family home.

The death toll in the January 9th Montecito mudflow is now 21. Still missing are Jack Cantin, age 17, and Lydia Sutthithepa, age 2, both formerly living in the Olive Mill/Hot Springs corridor.

 Report on the Injured

A total of 28 patients were admitted to Cottage Hospital with storm-related injuries. As of Friday, only four patients remain hospitalized, including two in critical condition, according to Maria Zate, Cottage Health spokeswoman

Re-population Planning

Re-population planning is still very complicated, and target dates are very fluid at this point.  Here’s what we do know.

The 101 through Montecito is now open!  Heavy truck traffic will continue, but commuters from points south of Montecito will be able to get to and from work in Santa Barbara.  Commercial deliveries can be made to local businesses, and the pace of activity outside of Montecito should quickly return to normal.

Because of the ongoing need to provide for the efficient movement of recovery vehicles and the protection of our community from potential looters, we can expect to see ramp closures at the Olive Mill, San Ysidro and Sheffield exits for some period of time.  The Army Corp of Engineers, utility restorers, creek bed cleaners, manhole maestros, water line wizards, drainage experts, bridge repairers and mud movers all have work to complete without interruption from local residents. The California Highway Patrol is maintaining 28 traffic control points in Montecito to ensure “No Way In (or Out)” without proper identification and authorization.

The re-opening of Route 192/East Valley Road remains uncertain. According to County Sheriff Bill Brown, one bridge on East Valley has been condemned, another one has sustained significant damage, and essential electrical work must be completed in a third section of the roadway.

Much work has been completed over the last few days that will lead to the early re-opening of many of the restaurants, shops and other businesses on Coast Village Road.  This achievement will mark a big step in returning our community to some sense of semi-normalcy.

Residential re-population will happen in phases, as neighborhoods become fully habitable, as roadways become safely accessible and proper security can be maintained. There are very few specifics at this time.  However, as the various utility companies come closer to completion of their expected repairs, the staging re-population will become much easier for officials to forecast.

Emergency Access to your Home

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is tasked with restricting public traffic into the recovery zones of Montecito and protecting our unoccupied homes.  However, Sheriff Bill Brown notes that it is possible for Montecito residents to make very brief return visits to their homes in the event of true personal emergencies.  Anyone who believes he/she has a valid reason to gain access to a home should contact the Sheriff’s call center at 833-688-5551.  If the requested access is approved, the resident will be personally escorted to the residence by a member of the Sheriff’s Department.  Providing access for brief home visits is extremely labor-intensive and requests for this service should be kept to an absolute minimum.

Montecito Water Lawsuit

In response to recent news about the filing of a lawsuit against the Montecito Water District, Palmer Jackson, Jr. writes, “I haven’t seen anybody comment on the lawsuit of the water district that these lawyers and a couple of home-owners are essentially suing all of the rest of us — since we all own our water district. Is this not true? And if it is true, could we not counter-sue them by claiming that they are attempting to harm the rest of us (many of us with damaged homes) by suing the water district. If the water district has to settle, don’t we all have to pay that out of our own pockets — the deductible at least?”

The Montecito Water District responded with a statement dated January 20, 2018:

 “The catastrophic impact of the mudslides in Montecito has been tragic, to say the least. From the moment this devastation began, Montecito Water District’s focus has been supporting first responders and working as expeditiously as possible to restore water service to the Montecito community. The intensity of the storm event is beyond dispute, as evidenced by the massive boulders which were dislodged by the mudslides. We have all been impacted by this tragedy.

“On Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 we learned that Montecito Water District was named as a Defendant in a lawsuit that has been filed as a result of the mudslides. The District believes that the filing of this action at this time is unfortunate, and any allegations of liability on the part of the District are irresponsible, highly speculative, and premature. The District is confident that forensic evidence and expert analysis will show that to be true. Nevertheless, now that litigation is pending, on the advice of District counsel, Montecito Water District will have no further comment at this time.”


Restoration of Electrical Power

Rudy Gonzales of Southern California Edison reports that there are some 1,100 homes in Montecito without power as of last Friday. Southern California Edison expects to restore service to all homes not destroyed or significantly damaged by January 31.

Restoration of Gas

Southern California Gas reports that natural gas service has been restored to 1,000 homes and businesses by gaining access to areas that were previously closed off or under mud. Montecito customers, who were evacuated WILL NOT be billed for service during the evacuation period, and the company will forgive the last bill for those homes deemed destroyed or severely damaged and uninhabitable.

SoCal Gas has an excellent website https:// or call 1-800-427-2200 24/7. Register or log in to “My Account.” When SoCal Gas is ready to do connections in your neighborhood they will attempt to contact customers in advance via an automated telephone call, text message and e-mail as to when the reconnection process to individual residences and buildings will begin. On the website is a daily, color-coded update map of gas service restoration areas as the occur.

Restoration of Water

Repairs are ahead of schedule. Nick Turner, GM of the Montecito Water District (MWD), reports that water may be available at all taps as soon as January 22. In the last nine days, crews from the City of Santa Barbara, MWD and their contractors, have repaired seven breaks in the District’s 14-inch highline transmission pipeline. Two breaks from 60 to 120 feet long in the pipeline from Jameson Reservoir are being repaired, with a completion date of January 22. Of the 13 breaks 20 to 50 feet long in the local distribution system, five have been repaired, and the rest of the work should be completted by January 31. Nineteen fire hydrants were sheared off. All have been located, repaired or replaced.

The District will work with FEMA and the State Office of Emergency Services to obtain funding for the ongoing work.

Restoration of Sewer Service

Diane Gabriel, head of the Montecito Sanitary System, reports that the wastewater treatment plant and all four lift stations were undamaged. Crews have checked 1,350 of the District’s 2,000 manholes and 1,000 are undamaged. The others are choked with mud and are being cleaned out. Crews are also assessing and cleaning the District’s 75 miles of sewer pipeline.

Montecito Mail Pickup

Blair and Heidi Whitney write, “How do we get our mail? We have a PO Box in the Upper Village Post Office.”

The United States Post Office reports that all Montecito mail can be picked up at the Santa Barbara Post Office located at 107 Nopalitos Way, near Milpas Street, south of the 101. Expect significant delays unless you get in line at least 15 minutes before opening.

Flood Information and Emergency Assistance

The local Flood Emergency Assistance Center at Calvary Chapel, 1 North Calle Cesar Chavez, offers a variety of recovery services to affected flood residents, including housing and hotel information and public utility information kiosks. A FEMA service trailer is parked outside the center. Hours are 11:00 am to 6:30 pm on weekdays; 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Saturdays; and closed on Sunday.


by Montecito Water Department


Montecito Water District incurred damage to its infrastructure as a result of heavy rainfall and mudflows that took place on January 9, 2018. Below is information you may find useful in understanding the extent of the damages, the progress being made on repairs, and the impacts on District customers.


1. Highline Transmission Pipeline
District crews are continuing to work alongside contractors and neighboring agencies to make repairs to a 14-inch steel transmission main referred to as the “Highline”. This transmission main was compromised in 7 locations, all at creek crossings. This pipeline is critical to the District’s water distribution system, connecting the District’s storage reservoirs to one another and facilitating the movement of water throughout the distribution system. The Highline breaks require the replacement of large sections of pipe, measuring 40 to 225 feet in length and elevated up to 50 feet above the creek. Due to the mudslides, the site conditions have been drastically altered at each project location.

District water system operators and Contractors were deployed following the incident to initiate the required repairs at these locations, some temporary and some permanent, depending on the site conditions. To date, three of the breaks have been repaired with permanent solutions (i.e. excavating soil and encasing the pipe in concrete at a maximum depth and backfilling with rock). Due to the site conditions and complexities associated with permanent repairs at the other four crossings, temporary repairs have been installed at these locations. The temporary repairs involve the installation of 8-inch diameter HDPE pipe laid in alternate routes around the creek or above the creek. All crossings were repaired on or before January 18th.With the completion of all repairs to the Highline, the District is now moving water from the South Coast Conduit to its storage reservoirs located along the Highline. Although the temporary repairs will result in a reduction in capacity of the Highline, it will enable movement of water throughout the system, and bring the full system back online.

District staff is working with consultants, regulators and state/federal officials on the process of implementing permanent repairs at these remaining locations as soon as possible. The completion of permanent repairs will result in regaining full capacity of the pipeline; restoring fire protection capacity; and further reducing the risks associated with a heavy rain event that could compromise the temporary pipeline while permanent repairs are implemented

2. Jameson Lake/Juncal Transmission Pipeline
This pipeline is a dedicated 18-inch steel pipeline that delivers water from Jameson Lake to the Bella Vista Treatment Plant through the Doulton tunnel. This pipeline was compromised in 2 locations, measuring from 60 to 120 feet in length. Damage to the pipeline was caused by significant rockslides. The 8 mile long dirt access road to Jameson Lake is on U.S. Forest Service property and was not initially passable due to landslides. Working with a neighboring agency, the road was cleared and repairs to the pipeline commenced. The contractor began the repairs to the pipeline on January 17th. Repairs are expected to be completed by Monday, January 22nd. Once work is complete, lake deliveries will resume.

3. Distribution System
Pipelines – The distribution system was compromised in 13 locations. Nearly all of these locations are on bridge crossings at creeks. In some areas, the pipeline was damaged but remains in place and in others, the pipeline is completely destroyed. These pipes range from 6 to 12-inches in diameter and span 20 to 50 feet in length. With the help of local contractors, repairs to these crossings are being made. Five of the thirteen repairs have been completed. The remaining repairs are projected to be completed on or before January 21st. These repairs require significant coordination through the Office of Emergency Services with other utility agencies working in the area.

Fire Hydrants – 19 fire hydrants were sheared off during the mudflows. These damaged fire hydrants have been located, turned off to stop the flow of water, and have been either repaired or replaced.

Facility Shutoffs – With the help of City of Santa Barbara staff, crews performed a coordinated effort to inspect the entire District service area from East to West, searching for running water, locating leaking pipelines, valves, service lines, and fire hydrants and shutting down water to these facilities. Approximately 165 identified service line leaks have been temporarily shutoff. Because debris covered many of these facilities, this process required 4 days to complete. Pressure is now building in the system indicating that most of the system leaking has been stopped.

Pressure Regulating Valves (PRV) – During the incident, debris and mud filled many of the District’s underground vaults containing pressure regulators and valves. Pressure regulators are used to control system pressure between the District’s twenty-five pressure zones. Access to these regulators is vital to ensure proper operation once the system is up and running to avoid over pressurizing the system and causing additional pipeline breaks. With the assistance of vacuum trucks from the City of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria Sanitary District, all 52 pressure regulating stations were cleaned of debris and mud in anticipation of bringing the system back to normal operation.

There are isolated areas of the distribution system that have yet to be fully assessed for damage due to limited access. There are other areas where work remains prohibited due to the ongoing search and recovery effort. These areas have been isolated from the rest of the water system in an effort to move forward with bringing the rest of the system back online as quickly as possible. As more areas become accessible it is likely that, given the amount of destruction in these areas, additional damages will be identified.


Water Availability
The current availability of water varies depending on the location within the District. In general, properties located below East Valley Road (Hwy192) have had water at their tap since the incident. As repairs to the system are being made, water is becoming available to customers located above Hwy 192.

Boil Water Notice
On January 9, 2018, a Boil Water Notice was issued as a result of losing pressure in portions of the District’s water system during the mudflows, notifiying customers of the need to boil/disinfect all tap water used for drinking and cooking purposes. This Boil Water Notice remains in effect for most District customers. A cancellation of the Boil Water Notice has been issued for the following areas:

A. Summerland – All properties located east of and including Ortega Ridge Road to the ocean, south of and including Hunt Drive, and west of and including Greenwell Road / Asegra Road including Freesia Drive, Caspia Lane, Marguerita Way, and the Montecito Ranch Estates.

B. Upper Toro Canyon – All properties located on Toro Canyon Road north of East Valley Road (Hwy 192) except for 685, 693 and 695 Toro Canyon Road.

The interactive zone boundary map is available on the District’s website at and the County of Santa Barbara website The Boil Water Notice remains in effect for many Montecito Water District Customers. Further information on water treatment can be found on the District web site:
For clarity and customer convenience, An interactive map of the Montecito Water District Boundary (with noted exceptions described) depicts the areas where the Boil Water Notice has been cancelled. We will be updating this continuously in the coming weeks to depict any change in status.

Bottled Water Distribution Centers
Two accessible Emergency Potable Water Distributions Sites are in operation from 8am to 8pm daily:
• Summerland Post Office – 2245 Lillie Avenue
• Montecito Fire Station #2 at Cold Spring and Sycamore Canyon Rd. (192)
Inside the Mandatory Evacuation is a third site, not intended for public access, at the South West corner of East Valley Road and San Ysidro Road (Upper Village). Emergency water distribution will continue at these locations until further notice and any changes will be indicated on the District’s web site.


Water may be available at all taps as soon as Monday, January 22nd. Although water may be available or may become available at your property, it is important to note that all District customers remain under a Boil Water Notice unless otherwise indicated on our interactive District boundary map. (Please refer to the Interactive Map on the District website for most current information.

Restoration of service is anticipated the week of January 28th. With the system repairs scheduled to be completed, we have transitioned to a new phase in our recovery process involving: returning the system to its normal operating pressures; flushing any remaining debris from the system; super chlorinating the system; and performing bacteriological testing required by the California Division of Drinking Water. District staff, with input from the State Water Resources Control Board and other mutual aid agencies, are developing this plan now. Implementation of that plan is estimated to begin as soon as Saturday January 20th and may take between 5-10 days to complete. Upon completion, a cancellation of the Boil Water Notice is expected.

IMPORTANT: As service is restored, customers should anticipate periodic high levels of chlorine in the water. Further information will be provided. Areas where the Boil Water Notice has been lifted will not be affected.


Please note that the District Office is located inside a Mandatory Evacuation Zone and is not available for public access.
The most current information is posted on our web site:

For Customer Service or billing questions call: (805) 969-2271 or email:
After Hours Emergency Service* phone: (805) 969-2271

General Manager Nick Turner states:
“I’d like to recognize and extend heartfelt thanks to all 26 Montecito Water District employees who have worked non-stop since this incident began on January 9th. I can assure you that District staff has done a tremendous job making repairs to our system and that all are working as expeditiously as possible to get it fully functional.

In addition, we’ve had incredible levels of support. While the gratitude we express will be ongoing, at this time we would particularly like to thank the more than 100 personnel who have come to assist us thus far. They have arrived on short notice, bringing all manner of heavy equipment and specialized skills, and worked long days under unimaginably grueling conditions. We have had every possible resource needed to successfully complete the immediate repairs, from helicopter transport to satellite phones, gators and trailers for accessing the Jameson Lake projects, trained water distribution specialists and more. To the many mutual aid agencies and contractors who have rushed in to support us, including the Cities of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Ventura and San Luis Obispo, Counties of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, State of California, Federal Government, Goleta Water District, Carpinteria Water District, Carpinteria Sanitary District, Tierra and Lash Construction, Alan Larson, ZWorldGIS, and so many others it’s impossible to name them all, we truly can’t thank you enough.”

Highway 101 on Track for Monday Re-opening

(photo by Kelly Mahan)

by Bob Hazard

The 101 is expected to re-open Monday for public use. Up to 8 feet of debris has been removed and new guardrails have been installed. State route 192 Easy Valley Road remains closed indefinitely, pending probable replacement of damaged creek bridges. All evacuation orders remain in place.

Re-opening of Coast Village Road Business/Shopping areas

The City of Santa Barbara is responsible for CVR re-population. Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo has vowed to help shop owners and restaurants reopen ASAP. CVR is likely to be the first re-population zone in Montecito.

Take A Look at the Interactive Map of Montecito

If you haven’t done so already, and you have access to a computer, go to the website. Click on the large blue horizontal bar labeled “Incomplete Preliminary Damage Inspections (95% Complete)” map to view the condition of individual Montecito properties. Enter your street address and the map will zoom in to show the condition of your home and your immediate neighborhood.

It is easy to see that significant destruction followed the channel basins of Montecito’s major creeks—Montecito, San Ysidro, Buena Vista, Romero and Toro Canyon. The interactive maps represent an awesome display of Santa Barbara County technical competence.

How Can Montecito Residents Recover UPS Packages?

If you are expecting a UPS delivery, head out to 505 Pine Avenue in Goleta, exiting the 101 at 217 (the Santa Barbara Airport exit), right on Hollister Ave and left a few blocks later onto Pine. That center handles 17,000 UPS packages every day, rising to 28,000 packages a day through the Christmas season.

The UPS customer service center can generally locate and retrieve your package in an average of three minutes. The lines are short and move quickly

Another Montecito Miracle Story

While standing in line at the UPS Center, the woman behind me was Karen Johnson, who was asleep in her home of 18 years at 204 Olive Mill Road, along with her husband Augie and two of her children. 3:30 AM at 204 Olive Mill Road.

Awakened by the rain and the roar of the gas explosion at 3:30 AM, the whole family with their dog climbed to their roof in the darkness, watching a deluge of water, mud, boulders, debris and ooze coming toward them, while frantically calling to nearby neighbors, who were also clinging to their rooftops. The Johnsons watched, helplessly, as two of their three cars catapulted past them in the mudflow.

When emergency responders arrived some time later, Karen’s husband Augie climbed off the roof into the deep muck to join them and heard the sounds of what they thought was an infant crying. The sound was coming from the mud underneath their single remaining car and, miraculously, they found the Benitez baby, who had apparently washed down Montecito Creek from East Valley Road near Parra Grande Lane. Sadly, the baby’s mother, Faviola Benitez Calderon, is now missing and presumed dead; two older siblings are confirmed dead, but the father and the baby survived—an incredible Montecito miracle.

The Johnson family was evacuated out of the deep mud at 7:00 am. In relaying her story to me in line at the UPS facility, Karen made the astute observation that every family in her immediate neighborhood had the same discussion prior to the storm’s arrival. The women wanted to leave; the men all thought it would be safe to stay in their homes. Sadly, the women were right.

Family Assistance Center

Yesterday, January 17, Santa Barbara County opened a new Local Recovery and Family Assistance Center for evacuees at the Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara at 1 North Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara, 93103, open from 11:00 am to 6:30 pm weekdays and 10:00am to 2:30pm Saturday. The Center is intended to create a centralized, single-point service center for those seeking to recover and rebuild. Reps from FEMA and all local, state and federal agencies are represented to provide answers and directions for hotel accommodations, housing assistance, permitting, cleanup, business insurance, flood/fire insurance and other topics.

Here Come The Lawsuits

The most interesting of these is the lawsuit filed by a four-firm law team representing four individuals and two business owners. The suit alleges that exploding transformers owned by Southern California Edison were responsible for the Thomas Fire on December 4, 2017, which de-nuded the hillsides between Ventura and Santa Barbara, making us vulnerable to the flooding that came early on the morning of January 9, 2018.

Last Friday the lawsuit was amended to include the Montecito Water District, alleging that a failure of the water district’s reservoir shutoff system caused the accidental release of some 8 to 9 million gallons of stored water down into the creek basins of Montecito.

Sadly, these issues will be topics of discussion for months and years to come. Let’s hope they do not distract us from the work of restoring this community to its previous vibrancy.

Status Report from the Montecito Sanitary District


The following is a press release that I issued to the County EOC today:

 The Montecito Sanitary District wastewater treatment plant was unharmed in the mudslide event. Due to the evacuations in the service area, wastewater flowing to the treatment plant is currently minimal –but proper treatment has been and continues to take place. All four of the District’s wastewater lift stations are intact and functioning. 

When SCE power went down during the flood event, all District facilities auto-transferred to back up diesel generator power and continued to function properly. To date, District crews in conjunction with our mutual aid partners, the City of Santa Barbara Public Works Dept., Goleta Sanitary District and Carpinteria Sanitary District have visually inspected 1300 of our 2000 manholes. 1100 manholes are reported to be in good condition. Many manholes were identified as having mud and debris. We are removing that material with vacuum trucks and delivering it to the wastewater treatment plant. 

 As mud and debris is removed from roadways and areas that are currently inaccessible, the inspections and mud removal work will continue. There are many locations within the District where wastewater service is currently available and reliable. Other areas still need to be inspected and cleaned. We will continue to work diligently to restore reliable wastewater service to the entire community by the time potable water service is available.

  Last night we mobilized three crews from National Plant (a contractor) working to vacuum mud, rocks and debris from our pipelines in North Jameson and Olive Mill / Hots Springs. Currently we are only approved to work at night in these locations. We will continue to work at night until we are given approval to work in the daytime and then we will work around the clock until the work is done.

  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Diane Gabriel, P.E.

General Manager / District Engineer

Montecito Sanitary District


Montecito Recovery and Re-Population Plan

by Bob Hazard

(photo by Kelly Mahan)

We must work together to restore Montecito’s vibrancy. Together, we will restore our beautiful homes and gardens, our unique local shops and businesses, and our inviting country roads.

According to Kent Taylor, Incident Operations Chief from Montecito Fire, and Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, we have moved from a “Search and Rescue” mode to “Recovery and Re-population of Montecito”.

Last evening, Montecitans gathered together as a community at La Cumbre Jr. High to honor those who have lost their lives or been seriously injured; those who lost homes and property; and those who have been evacuated and are yearning to return home.

When can we expect to get back in our homes?

The mandatory evacuation order will be lifted as soon as roads have been cleared, utility services have been restored and it is safe to return. The recovery process will go on for some time. The first priority is to re-open the 101. The second priority is to clean up local roads, restore the creek beds and remove mud and debris from storm drains in anticipation of potential future storms. The third priority is to restore utilities—water, electrical power, natural gas, sewer service and communication services.

It is probable that the lifting of the mandatory evacuation order will be done in incremental stages, as specific neighborhoods become safe, livable and accessible.

When will the 101 re-open? 

According to Tim Gubbins of Caltrans’ District 5, re-opening of the 101 is the #1 priority for Caltrans and the State of California. The 101 is the second most important North-South highway in the state. Nearly 100,000 cars, trucks, vans and campers per day, travel the 101 through the Montecito corridor. Workers living in Ventura and Oxnard cannot get to their jobs, businesses are experiencing long delays in the receipt of goods and services, and the tourism industry is currently compromised.

If Caltrans can continue to haul away 9,000 yards of muck and mud per day, current estimates are that it will take another six 24-hour workdays to complete this work. Although water is still seeping onto the 101 from broken water mains, drains are being cleared of mud and debris, following which any necessary structural repairs can be made.

Flood Control, Creek Dredging and Debris Removal

Tom Fayram of Santa Barbara County Public Works, reports that Montecito’s creek beds are its life savers. They must be cleared of giant boulders, downed trees and snapped off utility poles to get us ready for the next storm. Heavy duty dredging equipment has been inserted by the Army Corp of Engineers to break up giant boulders, remove debris including destroyed cars, downed utility lines, muck and mud, broken homes washed away from their foundations, bridges and culverts. Basic cleanup will take one week or more, depending on the intensity of any future rains.

Montecito Water District

Nick Turner, MWD General Manager, reports that the main water conduit carrying Lake Cachuma water, state water, stored water and purchased water for Montecito is up and running. Along with limited groundwater, supplies are adequate. Water is routed across Montecito via the highline pipe before being gravity fed to lower elevations within the community. There were six breaks in the highline conduit, which are all being repaired by Montecito Water District personnel, ably assisted by an incredible response team from the City of Santa Barbara Public Works. Hydrants were sheared off and are being replaced. Water service in Montecito should be restored within a matter of weeks.

Montecito Sanitary District

Led by General Manager Diane Gabriel, MSD is in charge of wastewater and sewer lines. Ms. Gabriel, whose own home was destroyed by a mudslide in the Tiberon area off North Jameson, was evacuated and is now living on a boat. While the sanitary plant suffered minimal damage, the massive pipe system under deep mud is still being assessed. Montecito Sanitary and its contractors have already inspected 1,300 of its 2,000 manholes and found 1,100 in good condition. Efforts are ongoing to suck mud and debris out of the sewer system. Montecito Sanitary hopes to re-open concurrently with the Montecito Water District services.

Montecito Utilities

Southern California Gas intends to be back on-line concurrent with Montecito Water. It must send a representative to each home when the evacuation is being lifted to turn on the gas and inspect the functioning of all gas appliances onsite.

California Edison has an army of people to restore electrical power once mud is removed and debris cleared. There are roughly 1,400 customers currently without power.

Cox Communication has mostly underground fiber optic cable and is reporting minimal damage.

Montecito’s Public Elementary Schools

Susan Salcido, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools, proudly reported that January 16, 2018 was the first day in six weeks that all 20 of our Santa Barbara County school districts are back in session. Both Cold Spring Elementary and Montecito Union School have been closed since December 6, 2017.

Cold Spring re-opened yesterday on its own undamaged campus. Montecito Union School, with its campus located in a mandatory evacuation zone, also re-opened yesterday with half its students gathering at Moxi, the Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, and the other half of the students going to the Santa Barbara Zoo. Today, the two student groups will switch locations.

Re-uniting students with their teachers and peers, and returning kids to partial normality has a therapeutic advantage for kids, parents and teachers. Starting Thursday, MUS students will be placed in a longer-term, temporary home in classrooms generously provided by Santa Barbara City College and McKinley School, with wee-sized chairs and tables loaned by other school districts.

U.S. Mail Pickup

Montecito mail can be picked up at the Santa Barbara Post Office at 107 Nopalitos Way, near Milpas Street, south of the 101. Expect delays because postal service is compromised right now by postal workers’ inability to get to their jobs.

In Conclusion

Although Montecito has endured two back-to-back major calamities, we are strong. We will support each other, deal with our current challenges and build a better community than we had before.