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Volunteers spend the weekend clearing mud from flood-damaged ranch in Oceano

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Posted at 9:27 PM, Jan 28, 2023

After early January rainfall caused a break in a levee along the Arroyo Grande Creek, all 12 acres of Pat and Vickie Cardoza's ranch flooded, leaving tons of mud coating the entire property.

The Cardozas say the mountain of repairs they are facing isn't something they can possibly take on alone; which is why through the weekend, dozens of community volunteers showed up at the ranch with shovels and boots to help dig them out of the mess.

"This is not something they should have to experience, and they definitely shouldn't be experiencing this alone," said Annie Cappelli, who was out shoveling mud at Cardoza Ranch Saturday.

"Everywhere else other than the house had over 10 feet of water," said Vickie Cardoza.

Pat and Vickie Cardoza say every corner of their ranch, from the livestock barns to the property's rental house and storage sheds is still sunken in mud. Annie Cappelli and other volunteers who showed up to help out this weekend say they are taking recovery efforts one step at a time.

"Today we are primarily focusing on digging out the sheep barn and the Ag barns," Cappelli said.

"Our main goal is to get this barn cleaned out so we can get the livestock back at the barn," said Jessica Nichols, who also spent the weekend volunteering at Cardoza Ranch. "We have a bunch of shovels that were donated from Home Depot, so we are just going to go in and use our strong backs and start shoveling."

As a result of the flooding and buildup of mud, Pat Cardoza says more than 50 livestock animals on their ranch are displaced, currently residing in temporary locations throughout San Luis Obispo County as they await their return to Cardoza Ranch.

Annie Cappelli, a longtime family friend of the Cardozas, added that she organized the outreach for volunteer efforts to lend a hand for the family's extensive list of needed repairs.

"The water and mud that came down was catastrophic. We are talking 20 feet overhead. You can see the debris on top of the barns, on top of the roofs. The mud basically destroys everything in its path," Cappelli said.

But volunteers say additional help will likely be needed over the coming weeks as the Cardozas continue clearing the mountains of mud from the rest of their ranch.

"This is a project that is going to take a long time to clean up. So, if you are not here today, please come out and volunteer your time another day," said Nichols.

Pat and Vickie Cardoza say they have also applied for help from FEMA but were told it would be a few weeks before assistance could be provided. In turn, on Saturday a slurry of volunteers turned out to provide immediate help in getting the family's ranch back in shape.

"To the people that are here today, we thank you over and over and over and over again for all your help. And just being here…is a help," admitted Pat Cardoza.