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South Coast Disaster Which Killed 23 People, Injured More Than 160 Remembered

(KCLU photo)
One of the many homes destroyed by the January 9th, 2018 Montecito debris flow

It’s the day those who lived through it will never forget.  January 9th, 2018 was the day when mud, rocks, debris, and water roared through a South Coast community, killing 23 people, injuring more than 160 others, and destroying or damaging hundreds of homes.

Doug Margerum and his wife Marnie moved into the home they bought just off of East Valley Road in Montecito just months before the destructive December, 2017 Thomas Fire.  The fire forced their evacuation.  The home was damaged by the blaze, and it took a month to repair it.

On January 8th, the day before the destructive Montecito debris flow, they were finally able to move back into their home.  The same day, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's deputies knocked on their front door, warning that they should evacuate, because a strom could bring heavy rain, and flooding to the area.

The Margerums decided to stay.  But, at 3 a.m., they were awakened by heavy rainfall.  They decided to evacuate.  It was less than a month after the Thomas Fire had stripped the mountainsides above Montecito.  Heavy rain sent a torrent of mud, rock, and water down Santa Ynez Creek, which is next to the Margerums home.

The couple was actually able to return to their home later in the day, but they found it was full of mud. The only part of the home which was undamaged which was an area which was just remodeled, the master bedroom.

It was a long process.  The Margerums were finally able to move back into their home a few months ago.  But, Doug Margerum says with so many people losing their lives and being hurt, and others totally losing homes, they feel lucky.

Margerum is well known in Santa Barbara County, because of his long career in the restaurant, and wine industries.  He says the disaster brought the community together in a way he’s never seen before.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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