Mudslides still snag Southern California; support needed for food relief

| by Elliot Maras
Mudslides still snag Southern California; support needed for food relief

Photo courtesy of iStock.

Many roads remain closed in Santa Barbara, California, as a result of mudslides that began two weeks ago, causing 20 deaths and damage to more than 500 homes. The mudslides, coming on the heels of wild fires a month ago, have disrupted the lives of thousands of people by displacing them from their homes, requiring emergency food deliveries.

U.S. 101, a major highway from Montecito to Santa Barbara, closed for more than a week and will not reopen until Jan. 22, according news reports.

Meanwhile, thousands of people have been displaced after Santa Barbara ordered mandatory evacuations for more than 6,000 people, including those living in parts of Carpinteria, Montecito and Goleta.

Relief efforts restricted

Nikki Dailey, owner of Heat Culinary, a food truck, culinary school and caterer based in Carpinteria, made plans with a couple of other businesses to deliver food and water to people in Montecito only to be told by safety officials to stay off the roads in that area.

"For the area that's impacted, we can't give anything at the current time," said Dailey, who was without internet and cable phone service for five days.

"They're arresting people that go out to help," she said. "They're not allowing us to have larger trucks on the road. We can't get in the way. It's not safe for us to be up there. We're all kind of just stuck."

Meanwhile, more mudslides are expected because many of the hills in the area were scorched by fires that burned the vegetation that would have absorbed much of the water from the rains. 

"There's nothing holding anything on the hills," Dailey said. "That's what the city (of Carpinteria) is telling us. We're all just holding on tight." The rainy season lasts through May.

"We're trying to figure out and plan our schedule correctly because we don't know what's safe and what's not right now," she said. 

Foodbank organizes food relief

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has organized a food relief effort delivering fresh food to distribution centers for people who have been evacuated from Montecito, as well as to first responders, according to Judith Smith-Meyer, the organization's marketing communications manager.

About 400 students from Montecito have been relocated to Santa Barbara City College, where they will be receiving food, Smith-Meyer said.

For distribution locations, visit the food bank's website at 

Besides the Foodbank, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross are handling most of the emergency assistance to the victims. Another organization called Direct Relief that is based in Santa Barbara has been providing medical supplies to local clinics.

Economy impacted

Business, meanwhile, has been slowed down by the mudslides.

Dailey continues to receive requests to take her food truck to events, but it will take longer to get to the events on account of the pervasive road closures. Some events have been canceled because of the mudslides, but Dailey has been able to reschedule a number of them.

Good to Go Juice, an Oxnard, California-based juice truck, has not been able to receive produce from its distributor, said owner Mike Sharpe, who is based about 30 miles south of Santa Barbara. The situation would have been worse if it had happened at a busier time for his company, Sharpe said. This is not a busy time of year for food truck events.

Mony's Mexican Food, a restaurant that has a food truck based in Santa Barbara, is less than five miles from an area submerged in mud, said Rudy Corrales, assistant manager. Like Sharpe, Corrales has not been able to get regular food deliveries. The company has gotten products from local markets instead of their regular suppliers.

"We haven't been able to get our merchandise that's coming from down south because the freeways are closed," he said. "The freeways are flooded with mud."

"The trains are operating, but they get full within minutes after the seats are available," he said. Many people in Santa Barbara have been confined to their homes.

Fortunately, Mony's truck was not on the road when the mudslides struck.

One positive aspect of the tragedy has been the spirit of community cooperation.

"Businesses in Carpinteria are really holding hands," Dailey said. "It's been such a blessing with how supportive everyone's been, because we're all in this together."

Topics: Food & Beverage, Food Safety

Elliot Maras
Elliot Maras is the editor of and

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