Coast Hills

With help from 'All In,' Carpinteria 4-H club recovering from mudslides

by Amanda Hollingworth
February 22, 2018
These side-by-side photos show the devastation caused by recent mudslides in Carpinteria.
On the left, the Playa Del Sur 4-H Club's facility before lethal mudslides caused by a winter storm blocked Highway 101 for nearly two weeks. At right, the devastation after mud flattened the 4-H grounds.

It was already beginning to rain when Ron Vieira evacuated the Playa Del Sur 4-H club’s steers due to the threatening storm. Hours later, he returned to the site in the early morning to collect their supplies and feed.

Except, nothing was there. In that short time, the storm swept through, and the hills — recently scorched clean by the Thomas Fire — collapsed into a mudslide that would close Highway 101 for weeks.

Luckily, no one had been hurt and all of the animals had been safely evacuated. However, the small Carpinteria 4-H club, a hands-on agricultural based after-school program, lost about $10,000 worth of supplies and materials accumulated over the decade Ron had been involved. As a small nonprofit, the loss was devastating.

All of the animal enclosures would need to be repaired or replaced. The shed that housed the supplies, feed, and generator — a necessity since the location doesn’t have power — had simply disappeared. Ron walked the path of destruction towards the highway for about a mile and only managed to find a small piece of the shed rammed into a tree. That was it.

“We found that sign buried under six inches of mud,” Ron said. 

Michelle Ruiz, a Relationship Specialist at CoastHills’ Orcutt branch, is part of a local 4-H family that has participated in regional events with the Playa Del Sur club.  Michelle is also a member of the CoastHills “I’m All In” program, a voluntary giving program fully funded by employee donations. Every three months, five participants are randomly selected to direct a $1,000 donation to a nonprofit of their choice.

Shortly after Michelle was selected, she heard the tragic news about her fellow club and it was clear where her donation could make an impact. She knew Ron’s dedication to the program creates opportunities for local youth to learn important agricultural skills and responsibility.  She also knew the investment each club member commits to the program when raising their animals.

Representatives from CoastHills Credit Union present a $1,000 check to members of the Playa Del Sur 4-H Club.

Although the club has a lot of work ahead of them as they rebuild, their biggest priority is ensuring their animals are taken care of. Before the flood, it had already been a rough couple of weeks for them due to the Thomas Fire. When that began, their livestock farm took in animals evacuated from Ojai.

Unfortunately, the fire crept up to Carpinteria, and it was their turn to evacuate, too. Ron and his team packed up the animals and took them to a ranch in Oak View, but it had already burned. So they had to move again, eventually returning to their farm when it was clear.

Not too long after, they received a Flood Warning as a storm neared and evacuated the animals to an emergency shelter at the Earl Warren Fairgrounds, which wasn’t well-equipped to deal with large livestock like their steers.

Between the traveling, the smoke from the fire, being at an emergency shelter, and from generally being uprooted from their routine, the animals were showing signs of stress and they were worried they might get sick.

Luckily, Ron was able to find a spot for them at a ranch in Santa Ynez so they could return to normalcy while the club got to work rebuilding their farm. Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of community support, such as Michelle’s “I’m All In” donation, they expect to have the basics in place and their animals home by early March.

Being prepared for disasters can be the difference between life and death. Visit Ready Santa Barbara County to learn more about how to plan ahead and stay safe. Signing up for local emergency notifications — such as Aware and Prepare — can help you navigate potential hazards when disaster strikes or locate resources like evacuation shelters and emergency food distribution sites. 

Similar topics: We Make A Difference, I'm All In

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