Mapping the Destruction of the Montecito Mudslides, Starting at the Top – Santa Barbara Independent

Rescue and recovery in the aftermath of the mudslides in Montecito will likely take weeks to months. As firefighters, paramedics, search and rescue teams, inmate crews, and law enforcement focus on lifesaving efforts, the Santa Barbara Independent is undertaking a mapping initiative to assess the impacted areas in Montecito. Working systematically in small areas at a time, our staff is hoping to provide a street-by-street look at which homes were damaged, destroyed, or spared by the disaster.

Mark Hudson lives under the shadow of Montecito Peak, near where Cold Spring Creek meets Hot Springs Creek and the two combine to flow together as Montecito Creek. He describes stepping out of his home sometime after 3 a.m. on Tuesday, January 9, to investigate what he says “sounded like a freight train.”

That freight train — the river of mud, branches, boulders, and pieces of homes — eventually spared Hudson’s home as it made its way down East Mountain Drive, charging down once-dry creek beds and building to a depth of 30 feet at some points during its plunge southward into Montecito. When evacuation orders were issued for his neighborhood in the days prior, Hudson decided to stay: “We stayed because during the Thomas Fire, if we evacuated, we couldn’t get back in. We couldn’t come home.”

By Brandon Yadegari

A captain with the Compton Fire Department stands at the newly formed eastern bank of Cold Spring Creek, some 30 feet from the creek bed below. Multiple crews spent Thursday scouring the waterways near East Mountain Road, searching for survivors.

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