Some Santa Barbara residents living on Ladera, West Montecito and West Gutierrez streets were woken up at 4:20 a.m. Thursday to mud and debris spilling down roads and sidewalks.
Firefighters went to the 300 block of Ladera Street and found water percolating through the asphalt in between a condominium complex and McKinley Elementary School, according to Robert Mercado, battalion chief of the Santa Barbara City Fire Department.
The source was a 12-inch cast iron pipe that was installed in 1963, according to Theresa Lancy, the acting water distribution superintendent.
An emergency services worker from the city was able to shut off the main, significantly slowing the water flow at 5:15 a.m.
“We identified Ladera Street was significantly impacted with mud, water and vegetation to the point where it was not passable for vehicles to make their way through,” Chief Mercado told the News-Press. “There were several front loaders, and some dump trucks to remove all the mud and debris that had come through.”
In some areas, the mud reached six inches deep, and made travel along any part of the street or sidewalks impossible.
Chief Mercado added that a 12-inch main is a “significant size” and that the size was attributed to the “large scale of mud that came off the hill.”
Ms. Lancy said building inspectors were on site early Thursday morning to assess any damage to the properties.
“(The break) did create a lot of mud, but luckily there was very, very minimal damage,” she told the News-Press. “(Building inspectors) did not have to issue any kind of yellow or red tag, and there was no major property damage.
“These situations always show the importance of investing in our infrastructure,” Ms. Lancy added. “We are strategically moving forward in pipe replacements to reduce the risk pipes pose to the city. We can’t completely mitigate this risk, but we are trying to actively manage it.”
Diane Arzeta, a resident who has lived in the area for two years, said this is the first time she’s seen anything like this.
“I didn’t know about it,” she told the News-Press. “When I got up this morning, it was like that. Then I had to walk all the way down the block because they closed the street.”
Vanessa Carachure, who’s lived in the area for almost a decade, said she slept through the ruckus, but saw videos of the mess on her brother’s social media and came out to observe.
“I’m shocked,” she said. “It’s pretty crazy. I have not (seen anything like this), not even when it was raining as much as when we had those mudslides in the Montecito area.”
Luckily, city crews were able to clean up enough for cars to pass through later in the morning on Thursday.
“I’ve lived here 30 years and this is the first time I’ve seen this,” said Gregorio Lopez, who was out observing on his front stoop. “I heard the truck beeping when I was sleeping in my bed, and I went to my window and said, ‘What’s happening?’”
A lot of the mud had already been removed and the streets cleaned up by 11 a.m. Thursday, according to Ms. Lancy. The city aimed to have the pipe repaired by the end of Thursday.