Carpinteria history shows flooding can be devastating

Past incidents serve as a current winter warning

Historic Carpinteria flooding has been devastating to private and agricultural property in past years and it serves as a warning for the weeks ahead. (Courtesy: Carpinteria Historical Society)

CARPINTERIA, Calif. - The Carpinteria Valley is getting set for more potential winter rains that could trigger mud and rock flows.

A steady stream of  trucks from the Carpinteria hills has become a relentless sight this winter since the January 9th storm dumped tons of boulders and debris into a large catch basin.

Flood control officials say it saved the city from wide spread impacts.

Now  the race is on to clear the canyon, and others, with an aggressive effort, day and night,  for several weeks.  The current project is only half done so far.

One resident says he's not going to be surprised if we get a solid and possibly damaging winter storm within the next month.

Paul Collins was heading into a grocery store and said, "this stuff has been happening to people for a long time. It is what nature does. You don't want it to happen but it does."

A check of some of the creeks where clearing has taken place in the lower and more populated areas shows work has been underway.

In the local hills at night, bright lights are on where one large debris basin is being cleared. It has what's been described as an "endless supply"  of rocks by Tom Fayram, water resources deputy director.

Even with the on going work, some residents, however, remain concerned because of the past flooding in the area.

"Some times I get frightened," said Eunice Palacios a 40-year resident.

Jade Paxton said,  "We just leave. As soon as the warning comes we will just leave."

In the past as we found by going through photos at the  Carpinteria Historical Society  there were many instances where flood waters cut off residents to the north and south similar to what happened in January.  That storm flooded roads, broke bridges and the rocks coming from canyons made some streets impassable.

Kathie Deviny said, "we were isolated and it was very disconcerting.   I just felt cut off. We were missing our friends and missing our church,  missing everything."

Unlike the past storms,  there will be more advisories to the public before anything hits here, and that has many residents more aware than ever.

"It is so cool that we have the technology to send out emails and text about it now," said Paxton. "It kind of sucks that you have to see the devastation happen and now we have to take it more seriously."

With these reminders this winter may not be the only time this community is on alert for years.

"You also know enough have to look ahead and say hey we are not outta it for five years before everything grown backs," said Collins.

Historians are quick to remind residents that the devastating 1969 floods came five years after the Coyote fire that wiped out brush in the local hills. With that review, the threats now to the valley will be in place for many years to come  until the hills grow back with brush and ground cover.

The same threat is looming over Ojai, La Conchita and coastal areas of Ventura County near Highway 101.

For more information go to :


Santa Barbara County Flood Control :


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