SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The passengers riding Amtrak Surfliner trains through Santa Barbara are experiencing quite possibly the most unusual rides of their lives in this area.
Normally a steady flow of freight and passenger trains with impressive horn sounds echoing in the neighborhoods throughout the day and night, has become a lumbering sound of heavily packed cars and a slow down order through the area.
Speeds through the catastrophic Montecito mud flow zone have been under 20 miles an hour according to passengers who say they have been awestruck at the sights.
Debris and twisted cars are in the mud along the rail lines, along with trees and personal belongings. It brings a stillness to some of the cars when the passengers are looking out the windows as they go by.
The train passengers awaiting the southbound train to Carpinteria on Friday night could not believe the volume of passengers trying to get on. They estimated the boarding crowd at about 900 with some part of a leftover group from a fully filled train about two hours earlier.
Doug and Shiela Smith were calmly understanding the crisis and knew others were facing the hardest time of their lives. They had thought about the long drive around via Interstate 5. It would be about a four hour drive. Instead they chose the train. It was a challenging day with delays on both ends.
Leana Orsua, a Carpinteria resident, was hoping to work remotely from home but took the train in Friday. She had been without cable and internet at home. Around town she said residents were going to locations with satellite feeds to watch the news and see the images from the neighboring areas. Orsua recently lost a dear friend and roommate in the Las Vegas shooting massacre and now her heart aches again at the losses in mud soaked Montecito.
As the train arrived the crowds nervously crowded closer to the doors or moved down the walkway to find open cars. Some thought they would not get a seat and ran. It was a low level frenzy with train conductors pointing to the open cars and available seats. Still, many were uneasy about the process.
Many left going southbound standing in the aisles with some of the largest crowds this rail line has handled.
Amtrak says it is adding cars based on the demand by riders.