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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

 

Over 800 Community Members Become Red Cross Volunteers During Thomas Fire

The outpouring of support from the Santa Barbara and Ventura communities has been incredible. The Red Cross helps to mobilize local residents who want to help their neighbors after a disaster, including the Thomas Fire.  When needed, community volunteers can expand the reach of trained Red Crossers by helping to hand out relief supplies or perform other tasks.

As of December 23, 2017, the Red Cross registered 1871 local community volunteers, with 834 community members attending an orientation and working a shift at one of our shelter locations.

I had the pleasure of meeting several people from the area who signed up to volunteer during the Thomas Fire. Despite all of their differences, they all felt a calling to help their neighbors.

Ben Pallan originally set out to volunteer with the casework team. When he found out there was a need for sheltering, he signed up to work two shifts at the shelter in Santa Barbara. “I wanted to do anything I could to help out, and Red Cross was the way to go.”

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Pictured is Fred Samuel, Sean Whipple, Ben Pallan, and Kam Kobeissi.

Sean Whipple, a senior at Humboldt University spent his Christmas vacation feeding residents at the shelter. “My mom lives in Ojai and had to evacuate. I wanted to help others going through the same thing she did. I really felt connected to this”.

Susie DiMauro from Santa Barbara works at a local nonprofit, spent her day at the shelter taking down cots and other random tasks. “I had a good time. It was good to help out,” she said.

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Mom and daughter duo volunteered at the Red Cross shelter at UC Santa Barbara.

As some of the lucky few that did not have evacuate in Santa Barbara, Deborah Danielson and her 15-year-old daughter Nicole, still felt the impact on their community. They attended an orientation at our Red Cross chapter in Camarillo, and then volunteered at the Red Cross shelter at UC Santa Barbara on its last day of operation. Along with many other new volunteers, they helped clean up the Recreation Center, which included cleaning cots and restocking Red Cross trailers so they would be ready for the next disaster.

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Pictured from left to right, Nicole Danielson, Ben Pallan, Deborah Danielson, Susie DiMauro, and Sean Whipple. Together they helped serve lunch, restock trailers, and disinfect cots.

“Our community truly came together when we needed it the most. Our volunteers made sacrifices to help ensure their friends and neighbors had shelter during this difficult period. The words ‘thank you’ don’t even begin to describe how much we appreciate their efforts,” said Kimberly Coley, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast and Ventura County Chapters. Thanks to these new Red Crossers and their efforts, the local Red Cross will be prepared to respond to the next disaster.

To sign up to become a volunteer, please visit redcross.org/volunteer to sign up today. There are several ways you can volunteer to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters with the Red Cross.

Taylor Poisall
Red Cross Communications

Thanksgiving Tips To Be Thankful For

If your family is anything like mine, then you know that Thanksgiving can be a perfect storm of disasters waiting to happen. Take a bunch of loud family members, add a deep fryer, and sprinkle in a few kids and pets, and it’s a recipe for holiday chaos!

It’s no secret that cooking fires are the most common cause of home fires and fire injuries, and Thanksgiving is a time when you are more likely to be distracted while preparing a meal. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving Day 2013 was the leading date for home cooking fires with 1,550, 230% above the daily average. That’s why your Red Cross has a few tips to make sure all family and food make it safely to the table:

  1. Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease build up. Never pour water on a grease fire. Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen.Thanksgiving1
  2. Keep children and pets away from the cooking area. Make sure children are at least three feet away from cooking areas. White meat turkey can be safe for your pet, but make sure to remove any excess skin or fat, and make sure there are no bones.
  3. Never leave cooking food unattended. If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check on it regularly.
  4. Keep flammable items away from cooking surfaces. This includes oven mitts, towels, or food packaging.
  5. Download the Red Cross Emergency App. Get more safety and first aid info at your fingertips. Test your disaster knowledge with fun quizzes and set up customized weather alerts.

Most of all, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday from your friends at the Red Cross!

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Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications