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Recovery and resilience continue one year after Montecito disaster

At nearly every turn in what was the mud covered community of Montecito a year ago, you see signs of recovery, resilience and hope.

At what could have been called a command post of conversation about the disaster on January 9, 2018, Jeannine’s restaurant and bakery was the place to share stories and find compassion.

Owner Alison Hardy said, “it’s an extremely hopeful community. we are very resourceful and resilient. I think more than anything we have come together.”

She says over the last 12 months, “the reason we came out of it the way we did is because of how many people stepped up and said they are going to make a difference and they have made a difference.”
Even in the shock of the mud and boulder destruction, the loss of 23 lives and hundreds of ruined properties there were people who continued to help others or coordinate fundraisers.

Montecito Fire Protection District Chief Chip Hickman said,, “all of the folks that were here during the incident are still with our organization. I’m so proud of the resilience that we are showing.”

The muddy waters flowing in the San Ysidro creek now indicate the mountain areas burned by the Thomas fire are still unsettled. Work is underway to clear silt and rocks from the debris basins as they accumulate during the storm conditions.

Some of these creeks will also soon be getting the ring nets. They were proposed, researched and funded by private residents who saw the project as a sign of recovery and future protection from the loss of lives and property.

Hardy was impressed. Normally big projects like metalnets in creeks could take years to get an approval. “They didn’t wait around they said ‘let’s make a difference now’. Let’s not have another one of these incidents without at lease putting something into it”

It was a sign of the special community members the area has, and their drive to solve a clear and present danger. Hickman said, “.the thought of trying to do something, leaning forward in a way of stopping the mountain from coming down again as it relates to the debris flow nets and something that really insurmountable, we have over come and so we are seeing these victories.”

As the community goes forward, the mystery of what could still happen tells residents to never doubt the possible embedded impacts inside stormy weather. “What we need people to understand is that this science is only so good, It can’t drill down into individual canyons or locations,” said Office of Emergency Management Director Rob Lewin.

Surprise flowers were sent to Jeannine’s and as she received them Hardy said, “if we all work together we can actually create something good out of this tragedy. I think everyone is really focused on that and they haven’t forgotten that it is up to us to turn this thing around”.

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