Before the Deluge

This is Part 2, the flood. Read Part 1. The New Year had come and gone. The fire was no longer near us. The street sweepers had cleaned the last ash piles away and a breeze no longer meant that it suddenly smelled like an ashtray.

I was picking up engagement rings to be sized, New Year's Resolution jewelry to re-design, changing chain sizes and generally having pleasant New Year's appointments. The sun was shining and all was well.

Except for the news that a big storm was headed our way. Suddenly we were glued to the news. Where a month ago it was all about face masks for smoke and ash, it was now about sandbags and if you were in an area that needed them.

Maps showed up on the news, showing creeks and neighborhoods and differing levels of threat from the burned mountains above.

Some geologists suggested the sky was falling. After being evacuated because of the fire for two to three weeks, some people had just come home and didn't want to leave.

The new evacuation for a potential mud flow was met with some fear and some skepticism and some apathy. Luckily I wasn't in a danger zone. I hoped. Though I was near a creek.

The pounding rain that woke us up at 2:30 or 3am that morning was frightening. It just pounded down relentlessly. Standing at the bedroom window I stared into the night. A light down the way let me see the rain, thick and unstopping, creating a wider and wider pond as it sluiced down our driveway.

Our cable went out and we had no news. I found out first on my cell phone on Facebook that there had been multiple mudslides in Montecito, mere miles from us, taking homes from foundations and there were missing people.

Riding in the Rain Down a Street a Mile From Our Home

Then I saw that the freeway was closed. We soon learned that the freeway was closed south of us as well, locking us in our little town. Ocean on one side and wet slippery mountains on the other side. And no open roads. Some neighbors had no electricity just a couple of miles away.

We rode our bikes in the now light rain, staying out of emergency responders way to see friends and get a sense of how our little town had done.

The big Montecito Flood. Long will it be remembered

Creeks Overflowed Their Banks, Went Down Streets and Poured into the Low Section of the 101 at Olive Mill Road

First Responders Searched Homes and Rescued Many People. Photo Credit Mike Eliason SB County Fire Department

A Coastal Campground in Carpinteria just South of Montecito was Flooded.

When Hillsides and Homes Flow Down Creeks the Wood Ends up on the Beach

Chocolate Waters at the Beach Tell of Massive Amounts of Mud

The mud on our section of freeway would have shut it down if Montecito's massive mud flow hadn't done so already. But we've had mud on our freeway before and it wasn't a huge deal. Not like Montecito.

Once we knew we were safe and had a number of days with no wi-fi, I was going stir crazy. Luckily we could see news at our neighbor's house who had a satellite dish.

I started to feel bad about the two young ladies who had gotten engaged, and days later given me their rings to be sized and then this happened. I wanted to get them their rings back. But we were separated by mud.

A few days later the Amtrak repaired their lines through Montecito and I decided to make the trek. It was easy to have 200 people turned away because the demand on the trains was so enormous.

A Full Platform of Amtrak Riders. Waiting Hopefully.

Signs of the flood

Looking Across the Aisle on the Train and Seeing the Flood Damage

I decided to go on a Sunday, rent a car once past the freeway stoppage, stay a few days with my friend Christine and see clients. I made it on the train on my first try. And even on Sunday the amount of people going was huge.

The rains devastated Montecito. The flood and its effects were enormous. The amount of mud on the freeway was unreal.

The most moving thing was how kind everyone on the trains were. People helping moms with multiple kids, people holding packages for overloaded passengers and one group of people shepherding elderly toward seats and able bodies passengers jumping up to offer their seats. I cried and some other people did at the kindnesses extended and strangers asked each other how they were doing. Caring about the answers.

The Vigil for Flood Victims at the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens

Life was getting back to normal in Santa Barbara, sort of. Many businesses were closed because Amtrak couldn't bring everyone who wanted to come to Santa Barbara in.

It only worked if you could stay the night for a few nights like I did and rent a car. Not that you could be guaranteed to get a rental car. I got lucky. I stayed for the vigil for the fallen and cried some more. I thought I'd never feel carefree again.

Chelsea was so Happy to Get Her Sized Engagement Ring Back

My clients were just wonderful. And it was a pleasure to see them and dive back into being a jeweler. My clients and their happiness with their jewelry lifted me out of my low point.

May and David Were Happy to Wait Until Their Custom Vintage Ring was Delivered

My clients lifted my mood greatly. Disasters happen and the closer they are to us the more we grieve. But getting back into your routine can be a healing activity. I learned first hand that work can be very cathartic.

I am grateful I was in the middle of a number of projects when this flood happened. When I picked up the threads of my shattered schedule, I had this life I am so grateful for to come back to.

Your Personal Jeweler,

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About Calla Gold

Calla Gold is a Personal Jeweler and Author who takes pride in working with clients one-on-one to integrate their personal sense of style and taste into custom designed jewelry and repaired jewelry pieces.   Unlike typical Santa Barbara jewelry businesses, Calla Gold has no brick-and-mortar location. Calla Gold comes to you, bringing you the jewelry collection you want to see and collaborating with you to create unique custom jewelry. Calla also works with at-a-distance clients.

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Nancy Geng Vassilakis
3 years ago

God bless you. I’m so glad your life and business are somewhat, if slowly, returning to normal.

Sherrill Nickerson
Sherrill Nickerson
3 years ago

It is so difficult for people outside of SB to grasp the magnitude of our collective sorrow from these events. Thank you for putting into words the impact to our lives and our need to have the “show go on”


3 years ago

So glad you see the value in getting back to ‘the everyday round’ in the midst of chaos. What we often think of as ‘routine’ can be our saving grace. Kind thoughts going your way from Ottawa, Canada.xx