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In Wake of Mudslides and Fire, Cancelled Sports are the Least of Santa Barbara’s Worries

24 Jan, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

When the duel in the pool between the University of Southern California-Santa Barbara and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas had to be cancelled because of the mudslides threatening SoCal, it barely caused a blip on the radar, given the area’s bigger concerns.

The mudslides that have made national news recently, causing devastating property losses, injuries and deaths, began earlier this month. They followed closely on the heels of the Thomas Fire -- the largest wildfire in California's recorded history – which, according to CNN,burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties from early December into January. The fire damage made the landscape far less resistant to problems resulting from the heavy rains that hit the area.

A portion of US 101 -- a major freeway connecting Northern and Southern California -- will remain closed for at least another week through Montecito because of ongoing clean-up and repairs, according to the California Department of Transportation.Associated Press also noted that with U.S. 101 shut down, Amtrak added additional cars to its route between Santa Barbara and points east as travelers increasingly relied on rail service to get around the closure. With many surface streets also impassable, the only other ground route into the Los Angeles area - located 90 miles (145 kilometers) down the coast - was a series of smaller mountain highways that add more than three hours to the trip.

And that will continue to play havoc with sports schedules, particularly those involving travel. It has also brought organizers’ creativity to the fore. According to an article in Swimming World Magazine, for example,

In lieu of the meet, the UCSB Gauchos will hold a Blue-Gold intrasquad scrimmage at Campus Pool at 11am. The Gaucho men, reigning Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) champions, will return to action at Pacific next Saturday, Jan. 20 while the women will squeeze in a dual-meet against UC Davis on Friday, Jan. 19 before also competing against Pacific on Jan. 20.

Both the men and women will host Cal Poly in a Blue-Green Rivalry meet at Campus Pool on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 11:00 a.m. in what will serve as a final tune-up for the MPSF Championships, set to begin on Wednesday, Feb. 14 hosted by East Los Angeles College.

Additionally, this is the second aquatic-related cancellation because of natural disasters in the last month. In December, USA Water Polo matches were rescheduled because of the Thomas Fire. The fire also caused numerous cancellations of sports events in December.

With neighborhoods, businesses and more destroyed by mud, many sports facilities have taken a hit, including neighborhood ball fields, tennis courts and more. Several hotels, including the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara and the San Ysidro Ranch and Montecito Inn in Montecito, are presently closed.

The tragedies have brought out charitable organizations with dedicated campaigns for the victims of the mudslides. They include the following (thanks to the San Luis Obispo News for the list):

American Red Cross of the Pacific Coast

Direct Relief (a Santa Barbara-based charitable organization with a dedicated fund)

United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund

Santa Barbara Humane Society

GoFundMe (Several GoFundMe campaigns have been established, including one called “Feed the Firemen of Montecito” aimed to help firefighters and first responders working in Montecito. There are also multiple funds for families and individuals affected).

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