Paradise Not Lost After Devastating Mudslides

Carina Tedesco

Due to severe mudslides and oods on Jan. 6, the Montecito community lost countless homes, parents, grandparents, children, friends and pets. In a community so closely knit, it is safe to say that we have all been affected to some degree by the tragedy that overtook our city.

Some of our Laguna Blanca community members were forced to confront the disastrous mud and destructive debris face to face. Since firefighters and officials were not able to predict where exactly the devastation would hit hardest, the vast majority of victims chose to remain in their homes, with little reason to be concerned for their immediate safety.

After I woke up, my dad and I pushed our way through the mud to get up- stairs.” — Senior Clay Rodgers”

— Senior Clay Rodgers

Many of the residents were in a“Voluntary Evacuation Zone” and were issued the warning that “there is a potential threat to life and property, but [it] does not require leaving immediately.”

One of the residents under voluntary evacuation was senior Clay Rodgers, who chose to remain at home, believing that his home and life were not at immediate risk. However, Rodgers did not wake up to his school alarm on the morning of January 9.

Instead, Rodgers woke up in the early hours of morning to his father’s repeated yelling;“Clay! Get up!”

The mud had broken into his home while he and his father were sleeping. His mother, brother and dog, fortunately, were in LA at the time, a fact which he describes as a “lucky coincidence.”

When Rodgers’ father heard their door break down, he ran downstairs to nd mud rushing into their home. After Rodgers was woken by his father, the two made their way through the mud to the second oor of their home.They “camped out” upstairs with no electricity or water until the sun rose in the morning.

Once it became light, Rodgers and his father were able to pack some of their important personal belongings into backpacks. Around noon, he and his father were able to make contact with firefighters in their area.

The firefighters informed them that they could not transport them anywhere, but that if both he and his father were able-bodied and healthy, they could make the two-mile walk to the Montecito Vons, where uninjured residents were assembling.

“So we pretty much just put on our backpacks and walked out through the mud and debris to get to Vons,” said Rodgers. After walking in waist deep, sometimes more, in mud and debris for a mile, the two were picked up by a sheriff, who drove them for the remaining mile.

Rodgers explains that the whole experience was so shocking that he still doesn’t really know how to feel, admitting,“It’s still kind of a daze.”

Rodgers and his family haven’t been able to assess what they have lost yet, but he says, “The family tea set, which has been passed down through generations is gone, and all of my drums and musical instruments are destroyed. All of our furniture and lots of family photos and stuff like that are also destroyed.”

Despite their losses, Rodgers emphasized that he is just grateful his entire family is safe.They are now renting a house in Hope Ranch until summer. After that, he and his family may move back to Chicago, where his family is originally from, at least for some time.

Although horrific and devastating, Rodgers’ story is similar to that of over 400 other Montecito residents. And while the healing process will surely take a long time, our community has already come together in unimaginable ways to support each other and begin to mend the many wounds inflicted upon our community.