Montecito Faces Mudslide Risks 5 Years After 2018 Disaster

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The instinct to rebuild in the same place should be questioned, not just in Montecito but in all of California’s vulnerable areas, said Tom Corringham, a research economist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego who has studied the costs of natural disasters. The 2018 mudslide led to more than $420 million in insurance claims. “At what point do you stop fighting against Mother Nature and start moving people to safer areas?” he asked.

There are few things stronger, though, than the draw of home.

Carie Baker-Corey, 54, grew up in Montecito and said she enjoyed an idyllic childhood, an experience she wants to pass down for generations.

She had been a wardrobe stylist, but retired after the 2018 mudflow, when she lost her house and suffered a punctured lung, shattered bones and a brain injury. Two of her three daughters died in the mudslide.

Her surviving daughter, Summer, was 12 at the time, and remained in a coma for weeks. When she awoke, she learned that the body of her twin had been found a mile from the house.

Living in an adjacent community since then, Ms. Baker-Corey recently purchased a house back in Montecito, but in a different neighborhood than before. It is, she said, the one place where her grief is understood.

On each anniversary of the disaster, she said, her phone lights up with dozens of calls, texts and emails from those who would never forget such a date: Are you OK? What can I do? We love you.

“I don’t know any other place that would be this compassionate.”

Jackie Sedley contributed reporting from Montecito.

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