Salvation Army serves vulnerable California coast as evacuations begin

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By Justin Pansacola –

With heavy rains expected for the next few days, local authorities have issued a mandatory evacuation order within Santa Barbara County, in anticipation of mudslides and flash floods. Evacuees have begun to head to the American Red Cross shelter in Santa Barbara, where The Salvation Army is providing food services in this early stage.

The area, still reeling from damage caused by the wildfires and mudslides of the last few months, is especially vulnerable to the incoming storm.

On Tuesday night, approximately 32 people stayed overnight at the Santa Barbara evacuation shelter at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. On Wednesday, as rains poured across the city, The Salvation Army served lunch and dinner to 40–50 individuals.

In addition to meals and snacks, officers are also offering prayer and counsel to those in need. Many of the evacuees found themselves in familiar territory as a natural disaster once again threatened their homes and stability.

“It’s not normal for me,” said Perla Marie Rubalcaba a native Santa Barbara resident. “This doesn’t happen to such a beautiful place. This has never happened to my home.”

Wendy Houle, a Ventura resident who lost her apartment during the Thomas Fire, is praying that she’ll have a place to return to. She arrived at the evacuation shelter in the afternoon as the shelter was beginning to lay out cots.

“I already lost my apartment,” she said. “If I lose this little studio, I don’t know.”

The recent history of the area looms large as responders and evacuees alike wait and see what the worst of the rains will bring by Friday. The Santa Barbara Corps is scheduled to continue providing meals in Santa Barbara on Thursday, and will be monitoring the situation as it evolves.

“We pray with people, we talk with people, we provide the food and the refreshments,” said Lt. Jeff Walters, Santa Barbara Corps Officer. “We’re on standby if [the need] increases.”

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