National News

A Vigil for Montecito’s Mudslide Victims

Posted January 16, 2018 11:53 a.m. EST

Thousands of Southern California residents gathered in Santa Barbara on Sunday for a somber vigil in honor of the 20 victims who died in last week’s horrific mudslides in Montecito. Friends, families, neighbors and community leaders came together in solidarity outside the Santa Barbara Courthouse, with candles, signs and cathartic stories about those lost.

It was a moment for reflection amid a swift and urgent pivot toward recovery. The Central Coast’s infrastructure was also deeply affected by the tragedy that ripped apart families and destroyed scores of homes.

Among the top priorities in the cleanup effort has been repairing Highway 101, which connects Los Angeles to many communities on the coast. It remained closed Monday, and officials have been hesitant to say when it will be reopened. Jim Shivers, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, said Sunday that road crews have to deal with “massive amount of water” on the highway. It is now expected to reopen in one week.

“Once we can get that water to recede, we feel very confident that we can bring in the available equipment on standby, get down to the bottom, and move the heavy material out of the way,” he said.

As the community resolves to reconstruct damaged roads and buildings in Montecito, residents are fearful of what other natural disasters might come next. The flooding and mudslides, which were made worse by scorched earth from last month’s wildfires, came at the very beginning of California’s rainy season. And more rain is predicted Thursday.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m scared of Mother Nature right now,” Mayor Cathy Murillo of Santa Barbara said at the vigil, The Associated Press reported.

“This was just the very first storm,” Larry Collins, an officer with the state’s emergency service, said in an interview with The Times on Saturday, surrounded by the devastation. “We don’t know what’s coming.”