SANTA CRUZ COUNTY (KPIX 5) — While thousands of residents raced to get out on Tuesday ahead of potential mudslides in the Santa Cruz Mountains, authorities said there were still some people who refused to evacuate.
On Monday, Cal Fire issued evacuation orders for residents in the Santa Cruz Mountain burn area of last fall’s devastating CZU Lightning Complex fire ahead of the storm’s arrival.READ MORE: South Bay Retailer Shutters Store in Response to Smash-and-Grab Crime Wave
Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputies finished going door to door to warn residents to leave the burn-scar areas Wednesday morning. Overall, one deputy told KPIX 5 that about 80 percent of people indicated they planned to leave.
At least 5,000 people living in and around the massive CZU Fire burn scar have been ordered out ahead of the heavy rains and potential mudslides that may follow.
Hundreds have already arrived at the county’s three evacuation centers. Those who decided to stay are preparing for what could be a rough couple of days.
Despite living in the middle of the burn scar of the wildfire that devastated Boulder Creek this past summer, resident Colin Moyer told KPIX 5 he has made a calculated decision to stay in his home, defying the evacuation order.
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“We had a couple of neighbors who lost their houses. We were too concerned about our house being in an area that was going to get destroyed. We’re more worried about being stuck for a few days,” said Moyer. “But the reason we moved to the mountains was to be in the mountains.”
Emergency managers said they’re concerned the charred and blackened landscape from the CZU fire has left the area vulnerable to flooding and mudslides. They are also worried about area residents suffering from “evacuation fatigue” in the past year of disasters.READ MORE: Grieving Family Members Call for Justice for Slain Security Guard Kevin Nishita
Sheriff deputies warned people to leave, saying it’s not humanly possible to protect your home from a wall of mud.
For Boulder Creek residents who weren’t directly threatened by mudslides, Tuesday was a day to prepare, stock up and to pack and be ready to leave if the time comes.
“We’re four and a half miles north of town and there’s burn scars along Highway 9. So there’s the potential for mudslides,” said Boulder Creek resident Landrea Samaha. “So I just figured I’d pick some stuff up. Our refrigerator’s actually pretty empty.”
The people who’ve chosen to live in the mountains are tough and self-reliant. After a year that has brought them devastating fires, a deadly pandemic and now potentially mudslides, their humor — like the landscape — tends to be a bit dark.
“I packed everything. And I packed a bottle of vodka for me too. I want to have one last drink if I’m going to burn up or mudslide away,” said Boulder Creek resident Frank Sandt.
The gallows humor residents have is understandable after the year this community has had. But all jokes aside, the message from authorities is for everyone in the evacuation zone to leave now. The move might save a resident’s life and it will definitely save authorities the time and risk of trying to rescue people if something happens.
“If you hear something coming down a hill at you, it’s too late. The only thing to do is to get out of the way right now.” Santa Cruz County spokesperson Jason Hoppin. “We want to get people out of the way. That’s the only way to prevent this.”MORE NEWS: Warriors End Suns’ Win Streak at 18 With 118-96 Victory
While the threat of mudslides captures the headlines, experts say it the debris flows — torrents carrying massive boulders, soil, trees and other objects — that can be more deadly. The Jan. 9, 2018, debris flow that blasted the Santa Barbara County community of Montecito killed 23 people.