Santa Barbara- S County

Locals return home after mandatory evacuations were lifted

MONTECITO, Calif. - Nearly 10,000 of local residents are back in their homes Friday night after officials lifted the Mandatory Evacuation Order issued on March 1st.

People living in the Montecito area were relieved their town didn’t endure anymore devastation during this storm, but they are also heartbroken that evacuating during any kind of rainfall is now their new reality.

“I feel as if my world has been turned upside down,” said Sara Miller McCune, who lives in Montecito. “It’s been a heartbreaking winter for all of us.”

McCune who is the co-founder of SAGE publishing just moved into her Montecito home back in September and says she spent more time in the past six months evacuating than enjoying her new home.

“I have lost track with how many evacuations I have actually done,” said McCune. “I think it is four, but it might be five so far between the fire and the floods.”

Evacuating to safer grounds during a storm is now the "new normal" for residents not only in Montecito but anywhere near the Thomas Fire burn scars.

“When I look out my front door up at the hills I can see these boulders that do not appear to be at all anchored,” said McCune. “It made no sense to me, I mean I was willing to stay, but I wasn’t willing to put my dog at risk, my staff at risk and so at the end there was no way to stay.”

“What we wanted to do is stay safe and get out of the area just in case there was another flood,” said Aian Mckenzie, who lives in Montecito.

Mckenzie and his family live near Hot Springs and Middle Road and stayed home during the January mudslide. That experience is one they never want to relive again.

“I was actually trapped in the fire myself and I had to run for my life to get out of there,” said Mckenzie.

Mckenzie feels certain that he and his neighbors will deal with evacuations for the next five years or more. Getting out and staying safe is a decision they will always be willing to make.

“We are defiantly not irritated by it because if we were then we might lose our lives,” said Mckenzie. “It’s insane out there.”

“What we have here is a special community and incredible community,” said McCune. “It’s the most incredible community that I have ever lived in.”

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