"We still haven't gotten home. . . still learning how to do this evacuation thing," a community leader confided following the most recent evacuation order being lifted. The "evacuation season" takes physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual tolls the community, and it does not discriminate. These challenges impact people of all ages and across all socioeconomic and demographic divides. Ongoing and unpredictable evacuation orders wreak havoc on daily business operations, the practice of religious holidays, and necessary caregiving of children and elders.
What's helping you make it through? Feel free to share in the comments below.
And here are a few more helpful tips and practices:
Replenish "Go" Bags
Between evacuations, in "times of peace" and when you feel less pressure, prepare "go" bags for you and your housemates, including bottled water, a few changes of clothes, comfortable shoes, a reminder note to grab necessary medications when needed, a charged battery-pack phone charger, a flashlight, a radio, and extra toiletries.
Gather with Neighbors upon Return
Plan for informal pot-luck gatherings with a few neighbors or community group members. Share about how your evacuation went. Encourage one another. Share with one another about what is going well.
Lend a Helping Hand
There are lots of ways to help neighbors in preparation for future evacuations, including:
Tend to Your Health
What else has been working for you, your family, or your neighbors?
Once at the church, members of the crowd, with a warm cup of soup in their hands, visited with neighbors and friends remembering their experience on January 9, 2018, and where they are today.
The overall atmosphere was filled with gratitude. It felt so good to be part of this resilient and recovering community.
Today my heart is overflowing. I am feeling deeply grateful for the love, light, and warmth of last night’s gathering at Raising our Light: An Evening of Remembrance in Montecito.
It was beautiful to see the streams of people pouring into Manning Park after sunset. And even after distributing over 1,000 candles, friends and neighbors continued to arrive.
I am still in awe that standing in the midst of so many people, there was a calmness to the gathering that in and of itself felt comforting.
Earlier that day as we were making preparations at the park following the afternoon rain showers, a rainbow appeared in the skies above Montecito. A newscaster called this rainbow ‘poetic’... I believe it was a symbol of hope and promise. A similar rainbow had appeared one year ago following the Debris Flow. It seemed to be a grace-filled book-end to a long and difficult year.
LOWER MANNING PARK 1/9/19 PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI PARR, WOMEN'S ECONOMIC VENTURE; 1/9 PLANNING COMMITTEE PARTNER
By no means is the road to recovery over after the candle lit walk of last evening. In some ways, it is just as the closing poem said... we now set out on a road we cannot see. There are unknowns that face us tomorrow. But what shone bright last night- in the radiant faces surrounding us- is the hope that we do not face tomorrow alone.
Rev. Marvel Hitson serves as ICTG's Director of Congregational Health & Trauma Chaplain.
Marvel has been based out of the Montecito Center alongside the HOPE 805 Team & other community partners supporting Santa Barbara County in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and Debris Flows. She is currently working towards long term recovery through Riviera Care Center Project in collaboration with the Community Wellness Team.
As the crisp winds of Autumn bring a new season to Santa Barbara, it is hard to believe that it has already been nine months since the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow.
In some ways these months have seemed to fly by and in other ways, time has stood still. While some of the mud and debris has been cleared on properties, many in town are still feeling ‘stuck in the mud’ emotionally speaking. In this season, the conflicting realities brought about by disaster cause us to feel as if we are taking two steps forward and three steps back at times.
The summer provided a welcome break from concerns about the rain, but as the probability of precipitation rises in Santa Barbara County, so can the levels of stress. Many of the individuals, congregations and organizations we have been supporting through the Riviera Care Center Project are amid preparing for the possibility of another evacuation season.
The phases of disaster that a community may go through often sees a collective stage of disillusionment leading up to the anniversary. This stage can include feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, and sadness. As the intensity of the first response, or “hero” phase, wanes, it is common for people in the community to feel tired and experience a significant dip in energy levels. The feelings that surface around this time are normal, healthy and necessary in the work of restoration. September brought the closing of the Montecito Center and with it a heightened collective awareness of the ongoing needs of our community. In response to these needs, ICTG continues to co-lead the Community Wellness Team and ensure collaborative efforts in providing for the mental, emotional and spiritual health of Santa Barbara County residents.
Thank you for your continued support to our local efforts to provide care and restorative strategies to survivors, organizations, churches and business in Santa Barbara County. We are passionate about our mission and grateful for your generosity – it continues to make a tremendous difference, especially in this season!
Director of Congregational Health & Trauma Chaplain