LA CONCHITA, Calif. - People who remain in La Conchita after the deadly mudslide in 2005 are reliving painful memories as a similar tragedy unfolds in Washington State.
La Conchita is a seaside community between Santa Barbara and Ventura. The small town has endured two mudslides. In 1995, several homes were buried by mud and debris. In 2005, the hillside came crashing down again killing ten people.
Residents who lived through the tragedy in La Conchita say they are following the news out of Washington closely. They say its difficult to watch because the images hit so close to home. Mike Bell is the Chairman of the La Conchita Community Organization. He says the mudslide in 2005 happened so fast, there was no time to flee. "In 15 seconds it had fallen and come into town, settled and stopped. The people that were trapped by it didn't have a chance," said Bell.
The search for the missing in the mudslide in Washington is bringing up those painful memories of not knowing what happened to family and friends. Bell said, "The people in town here know that when you have friends and relatives missing, its just horrible. You can't even explain what they're going through, what we all went through."
Nine years after the hill collapsed, people in La Conchita are still rebuilding. A study by the state of California and FEMA estimated the cost to shore up the hillside at around 56 million dollars. Residents say they have a contractor looking at the study and evaluating the area right now. They believe the hillside can be stabilized for around 17 million dollars.
In 2005, the community secured funds after the disaster and purchased a storage container with lamps, radios, tents and other necessities in case of an emergency. There is also an emergency plan in place. Bell said, "Everybody responds to a certain location. We have name tags so when the emergency people come into town, we can go here's who lives where, and here is their phone number."
Despite the constant reminders of the past, residents say La Conchita is their home and their very own paradise. Bell said, "There's an old saying, you never really leave La Conchita."