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Family displaced, hundreds of homes damaged after massive dirt flow in Orcutt

Orcutt sand
Posted at 5:45 PM, Jan 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-11 14:16:15-05

On Tuesday, maintenance crews were in an Orcutt neighborhood clearing tons of dirt that flowed through nearby homes and piled up on the cul-de-sac of Hibiscus Court.

Officials say hundreds of homes have been impacted.

One family came back to their house after evacuating Monday evening and received the unfortunate news that they had been displaced, and would have to leave home again.

"We were eating dinner, and we heard a noise and thought it was thunder, but what it was, was the wall collapsing in the back," said Clarissa Jara, who lives in Orcutt.

"Water started seeping through the wall, we opened the sliding glass door and it was filled halfway to the door and water started coming in," added Nadeene Sena, Jara's daughter.

Tuesday morning, Sena walked through the inside of her home where remnant rainwater could be seen puddling up beneath furniture, through hallways, and into the garage.

"Our house, the foundation has moved, it is kind of down," Sena told KSBY. "They are red-tagging our home, so it is not livable anymore."

"We have just been packing out clothes, just packing everything. I don't know where to start. It is just overwhelming to see the way the house looks right now," Jara said.

Meantime, as Sena and Jara sifted through the salvageable remains of their home, crews with the County of Santa Barbara's public works department were working to clear away the mountains of dirt on Hibiscus.

"First point is obviously to guarantee some safety and guarantee access for people to get in and out of this location," said project manager Christian Doolittle. "And then we will start debris removal."

Doolittle says the flow of dirt that swept onto Hibiscus Court came from rushing rainwater that overflowed a sinkhole on Union Valley Parkway Monday evening.

That massive passage of dirt and water surged through Nadeene Sena's home and onto the rest of the cul-de-sac.

"We are trying to pack up all of our stuff, so, we will have our clothes, our hygiene and necessities, but, it is very emotional," Sena said.

Her mother adds that despite the circumstances, the family is trying their best to stay positive.

"This is the worse that it can get. We are all healthy, everybody is alive, nobody got hurt physically, so we are happy with that," Jara said.

Officials with the public works department say they will likely stay at Hibiscus Court for the rest of the week as they continue clearing dirt from the road and assessing damages in the area.

Ahead of the additional rainfall that is on the way, maintenance crews say they will be working to barricade the south end of Hibiscus Court to prevent the flow of any more dirt and water from Union Valley Parkway.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department's Public Information Officer, Scott Safechuck, says they are still assessing damages and don't yet know the full extent. They estimated hundreds of homes were impacted.