The Central Coast was thrust into the national spotlight early in 2018 when a heavy storm unleashed a torrent of mud and debris from the mountainsides above the community of Montecito. The area had recently been ravaged by the Thomas Fire and there was nothing to hold back the huge boulders, burned trees, dirt, and water. The 1/9 Debris Flow, as it’s come to be known, destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes, mostly in the Montecito area. Highway 101 was closed for nearly two weeks. Twenty-one people were killed and two others who were swept away have never been found. Despite the extent of the tragedy, many stories of compassion and community bonding emerged, such as the rescue of a little boy and the connection between his and other family affected by the disaster:
Several months later, and only a few miles away, the Holiday Fire broke out, destroying ten homes in Goleta. The fire, which started shortly after 8:30 p.m. on July 6 in the area of Holiday Hill Rd. and Fairview Ave., burned 113 acres. It was fueled by strong winds and 100-degree temperatures that lasted well into the evening hours.
A blackface incident prompted protests at Cal Poly this spring just as the San Luis Obispo university was preparing for its annual Open House. It all started when a photo of a fraternity member whose face was painted black at an off-campus party was shared on social media. The student said he didn’t know the historical significance of blackface. Still, the incident prompted a suspension of the fraternity and an investigation by the state Attorney General.
Seven months after her disappearance, an arrest was made for the murder of Nancy Woodrum. The Paso Robles woman was last seen at her rural home in May. Investigators say Carlo Alberto Fuentes Flores, a man who worked as a painter on her property, led them to Woodrum’s body this December after he was identified as the suspect. He faces arraignment in January.
An ordinance limiting plastic drinking straws went into effect in San Luis Obispo in March. Restaurants, cafes and bars can now only provide plastic straws upon request. Other cities have followed suit and a similar law is going into effect statewide on January 1.
Vandenberg Air Force Base was host to several historic rocket launches. In May, NASA launched the InSight Mars lander to study the red planet’s seismic activity. The Delta II saw its final launch in September. And in October, SpaceX landed a Falcon 9 booster at the West Coast base for the first time, an exciting sight to see for those who gathered near the base to watch the historic moment: