Local Resident Explores “What Now?” After Devastating Mudslide

As Jeff Harms speaks about his home renovations, his face lights up.

“It was an ugly peach color,” he laughs. “People would ask me about it.”

Jeff has spent the last few years making his charming two-bedroom house a home with his husband, Joel, and cat, Jackson.

As a local landscape architect, Jeff has an eye for natural beauty. The tremendous joy he has for his home pales in comparison to his pride for the beautiful Coastal California landscape.

“[It was] tucked away in a wooded oasis along a creek, surrounded by indigenous trees,” he explains with passion. ”The creek created a soothing melody of sounds in the night and the rhythmic croaking of the frogs calmed me to sleep.”

But now the place he once called home is destroyed. His beautiful landscape now a memory.

Jeff is one of over 100 Montecito residents whose home was destroyed in the torrential rain and mudslide earlier this month. Jeff was out of town when the storm hit and was devastated when he heard the news. His top concern was the safety of his community, an integrated town of friends and family. He wanted to make sure his friends knew he was safe, and that they too were accounted for.

The first thing Jeff did was list himself as safe on American Red Cross’ Safe and Well, a site for people in disaster areas to register their status and let their loved ones know they’re all right.

“You never know who is worried for you,” Jeff says, as he shares his condolences for those who had been affected.

Jeff and Cindy LAC
Jeff shares his story with Cindy Huge at the Local Assistance Center.           Photo Credit: Jocelyn Hillard

With an unremitting feeling of lost connection, Jeff made a visit to the Local Assistance Center in Santa Barbara. Connecting over 30 agencies, including the Red Cross, the center serves as a hub for information and resources for those affected.

Jeff came looking for an answer to the question on everyone’s mind – what now?

As Jeff shares photos of his home, you can see the devastation in his face. His once beautiful home and landscape has been swept away in the mudslide. It’s unrecognizable. But still, he’s not concerned about himself. He wants to know that others are safe – the coffee shop barista he saw in the morning, the regular server at his favorite restaurant to name a few.

In the aftermath of this historic storm, Jeff and so many simply miss their sense of home, their sense of community.  The Red Cross is doing our part to provide support to people like Jeff and his neighbors. Those who have been affected can go to the Local Assistance Center to work with a multitude of agencies that are ready to help the community get on the road to recovery.

The Local Assistance Center is open until February 3, 2018 at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara, 1 N Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara, 93103 during the hours of 11 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Monday –  Friday, and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday. The center will be closed on Sunday.

Additional information is available at redcross.org/pacificcoast or by contacting (805) 687-1331.

 

The remains of Jeff’s property after the disastrous mudslide earlier this month. Photo provided by Jeff Harms.

Story by Jocelyn Hillard (Connecticut/Rhode Island) and Cindy Huge (Central California)

Advertisements

Bringing Normalcy and Stability in Times of Chaos

sbinstMaryWayneMary Hartberg is one of many answering the call to get involved after a string of disasters has left her community reeling.

Her goal in doing so is to demonstrate the gratitude she has for coming through wildfires and the mudslide unharmed and to “bring normalcy and stability in times of chaos”

The January 9 Montecito mudslide is one of the biggest disasters in Santa Barbara County history and followed several wildfires last month.

Mary is one of hundreds of new Red Cross volunteers who have come forward to help. Along with about 100 others, she attended a Disaster Worker Institute hosted by the American Red Cross Pacific Coast chapter.

sbinstShelterclass

The weekend training, held January 19-21 at the Santa Barbara Community Church, featured a variety of classes for new Red Cross workers and those looking to hone their skills. sbinstClasssked

“Recent wildfires and the mudslide have impacted so much of our community and we remain vulnerable to landslides and flooding,” said Executive Director Kimberly Coley. “We continue to stay on alert after the December wildfires created instability in the landscape of the region.”

Volunteers from Santa Barbara and surrounding areas learned about  shelter operations, logistics, casework, disaster assessment, psychological first aid and more.

“What you are doing is awesome,” said Jim Caesar, campus emergency manager for the University of California Santa Barbara, in a short address to the volunteers. “The power of a hug, the power of friendship, the work you’re doing for our community is really appreciated. You are plugged into a great organization that works with a lot of great partners. To do the mission of the Red Cross, we need you to be here. ”

Mary lives in an area that was under mandatory evacuation during the Thomas Fire, the largest in California history. During the Montecito mudslide, her area was under voluntary evacuation.

“The fire was scary but with the mud we were so exhausted from the previous evacuation that we decided not to evacuate,” she said.

Mary assured us that she and her home are all right and that she feels a sense of gratitude.

“I’m fine, and I want to do what I can to help the community and that’s why I’m here.”

For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact volunteer.centralca@redcross.org

Story and Photos by Carmela Burke (Los Angeles) and Renee Felton (Dallas-Fort Worth)

 

“You Won’t Find a Bigger Fan of the Red Cross Than Me.”

SBJenniferPhotoBlogHannah Troy of Montecito has stayed in two Red Cross shelters during two separate natural disasters that struck over a five-week period. She was evacuated twice during the Thomas Fire, the largest in California’s history. During her first mandatory evacuation she spent two days at the Red Cross shelter on the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus, and later stayed with a friend for 12 days over the holidays. 

Her return home proved to be brief when she woke up to the sound of heavy rain and a mudslide evacuation alert on her phone at 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 9. She ran out to where her minivan had been parked, but it was no longer there. Her brother-in-law’s car was also swept away. The road clearly wasn’t safe to drive, so she went back inside her home and waited with her sister and brother-in-law, with whom she lives.

When they had learned the day before that their home was in a voluntary evacuation area, Hannah had packed her car with a bag with clothes and supplies for a few days in case they needed to evacuate again. Those belongings were gone in a wave of mud.

After being rescued from her home, Hannah was relieved to see the Red Cross shelter open at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). Having trudged through thick mud with her family and dogs, she was glad to have a hot shower and fresh clothes because she couldn’t carry many belongings with her through the mud.

You won’t find a bigger fan of the Red Cross than me,” she said.

The Red Cross has been providing shelter and other services for people impacted by the mudslides.

The area of mandatory evacuation expanded to clear the area for recovery efforts and more than 29,000 people were ordered to leave for what might be another week. People who arrived at the shelter were offered food, a place to sleep, mental health services, help reaching loved ones and access to hot showers and clean clothes.

Hannah stayed at the SBCC Red Cross Shelter with her dogs Lulu and Gabriel for a week, while she planned her next steps for a long-term recovery. She praised the Red Cross volunteers as giving her a sense of security after going through two natural disasters.

“There are all these amazing people and I feel safe,” said Hannah with her arms extended pointing toward Red Cross volunteers. “I just feel like this is the smartest place for me to be right now.”

Earlier this week, Hannah decided to stay with her aunt, but she promised to keep in touch with people she had gotten to know at the shelter.

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Red Cross, visit http://www.redcross.org. You can also donate to the Red Cross at the same website, by calling 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Byline: Jennifer Haake, American Red Cross Pacific Coast Chapter

1/18/18: American Red Cross Update

RED CROSS TRANSITIONS SHELTER RESIDENTS

TO RECOVERY PLANS

Santa Barbara, Calif., January 18, 2017 — In partnership with local relief organizations and government agencies, the American Red Cross of the Pacific Coast transitioned the San Marcos High School shelter to standby at 6:00 a.m. Thursday morning. Red Cross caseworkers met with each shelter resident to offer them a recovery plan and additional recovery resources.

The Red Cross and its partner agencies are committed to making sure that everyone impacted by this disaster is offered a safe place to go. For those whose home address has been verified by CAL FIRE as in the impacted area, a short-term lodging solution has been made available by community partners as part of their larger community recovery plan.

Red Cross emergency shelters are designed to meet the immediate, short-term needs of impacted residents until long-term efforts can get underway. As the Santa Barbara community begins to recover from this disaster, the Red Cross is meeting one-on-one with any affected residents and providing an individualized recovery plan.

Caseworkers from the Red Cross are available to meet with the public at the Local Assistance Center at Calvary Chapel of Santa Barbara, 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara, CA 93103. Additionally, Red Cross crisis counselors are available to meet the emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of those feeling the impacts of this disaster. Red Cross Emergency Vehicles and volunteers also continue to distribute relief supplies such as clean drinking water and snacks at the US Post Office, 2245 Lillie Ave., Summerland, CA 93067.

 About the American Red Cross Central California Region

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. The American Red Cross Central California Region provides services to the ten counties across Central California that is home to more than 4 million people. For more information, please visit http://www.redcross.org.

 

Personal Loss Leads to Service for Others

“My heart aches to see my community suffering after such a devastating tragedy.”

When the call went out for American Red Cross volunteers to help, Cullen Dorais quickly stepped up, just like he has done in the past 11 years. But this time the call was very different, since the call for help was for his very own community, where he lives and also works in.

Cullen1
Cullen Dorais helps set up cots in the Red Cross shelter at Santa Barbara City College. Photo: Cindy Huge, American Red Cross

Dorais, a warehouse manager, has been unable to report to work due to the inaccessibility of the roads since the mudslides hit his community a little over a week ago.  He has been in touch with is boss but he is not certain if the business survived the horrific landslide.  While waiting to see if he can return to work, Dorais decided he needed to do something.

“I need to help, this is my own community. I can’t just do nothing,” he said. So, Dorais volunteered to help the Red Cross as part of the shelter team: setting up cots, blankets and comfort kits to welcome those who have been displaced by this tragedy.  In doing so, he has been assisting with caring for the dozens of residents who now are calling the Red Cross shelter home.

“It strengthens my resolve to serve my community the best I can and to help those who are going through similar losses,” stated Dorias.

For Dorais, the losses have been very personal. Longtime family friends and neighbors did not survive the mudslide and many others he knows are still missing. Emotionally this has been hard for himself and his family.

Cullen2
Cullen helps move shelter supplies at Santa Barbara City College. Photo: Cindy Huge, American Red Cross

Helping serve warm meals or just sitting quietly next to a shelter resident is where you will likely find Dorais today. He often walks out of the shelter to comfort a resident who is sitting alone and may be in need of a listening, supportive, understanding ear.

Volunteers such as Dorais are essential in helping to care for those who have been affected by a disaster. Red Cross volunteers from across the nations have left family and friends to help provide emotional and spiritual care for this community during this disaster operation.

As the days move on, the support of the Red Cross will be essential in helping the community of Montecito move forward in their recovery and healing. For Dorais, just the act of helping and serving others has put him on his own path of recovery and healing.

MonticetoFlood-6-PHOTOCREDIT-RyanCullom-AmericanRedCross
Photo: Ryan Cullom, American Red Cross

How You Can Help
The quickest and best way to support Red Cross Disaster Relief is through a financial donation. Thanks to the generosity of donors like Tina and Rick Caruso, the Red Cross is able to provide critical relief services such as sheltering, health services, emotional support, distribution of clean up supplies, and much more during a disaster. The Caruso’s are encouraging the community to support the local Red Cross through a donation online at https://www.crowdrise.com/americanredcrossofthepacificcoastchaptersupport.

Photo and Story by Cindy Huge and Michelle Maki, American Red Cross Volunteers

Wildfire Burn Areas Bring Threat of Landslides

Recent wildfires may be contained, but the threat of new natural disasters linger in impacted communities. Wildfire burn scars are more vulnerable to landslides, meaning that many neighborhoods recently evacuated due to fires are once again seeing their homes threatened.

mudslidepic
December 2014 – The local Red Cross responded to a landslide in Camarillo Springs, opening an emergency shelter and providing relief to evacuated residents.

With rainfall impacting most of our Central California Region next week, the Red Cross is offering the following safety tips:

PREPARE

Landslides generally happen in areas where they have occurred in the past. Learn about your area’s landslide risk.

Learn about local emergency response and evacuation plans.

Create and practice an evacuation plan for your family or business.

Assemble and maintain an emergency preparedness kit.

Watch the patterns of storm water drainage on slopes near your home, especially where runoff water converges.

Beware that at typical homeowner’s policy does not include landslide or mud flow coverage. Talk to your insurance agent today for more information.

142601-NPM-Build-Your-Kit-1024x512-Twitter-FINAL
Make sure your emergency kit has a three day supply of food and water (one gallon per person, per day). Also include a flashlight, radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, medications, hygiene items and more. Visit redcross.org for a full emergency kit list.

RESPOND

During severe storms, stay alert and awake.

If you suspect imminent danger, evacuate immediately. Inform affected neighbors if you can, and contact your public works, fire, or police department.

Listen for unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together.

If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and notice whether water changes from clear to muddy.

Consider evacuations of larger or numerous animals.

RECOVER

Stay away from the slide area until officials say it is safe to enter.

Watch for flooding, which sometimes follows landslides.

Check for injured and trapped persons or animals near the slide without entering the slide area.

Help people who require special assistance.

Look for and report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities.

Check your home’s foundation, chimney and surrounding land for damage.

Replant damaged ground as soon as possible because erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding.

California Wildfires 2017
Red Cross volunteers reunite missing loved ones at a recent Thomas Fire shelter.

Ready When the Time Comes

Your local Red Cross is on alert and working closely with government officials in order to respond quickly in the event of a landslide in our community. Volunteers are ready to open emergency shelters, providing relief and comfort to anyone affected by potential disasters.

Make sure your family is prepared for disasters big and small. Get preparedness information and find emergency shelter locations at your fingertips by downloading the Red Cross Emergency App, free for smartphones and tablets. Search for it in your app store, or text “GETEMERGENCY” to 90999.