skip to Main Content

1914 Debris Flow

Old Spanish Town In Montecito, At East Valley Road And Montecito Creek, 1914.

In the late afternoon of January 23, 1914, a storm cell hit the foothills of Montecito and Mission Canyon, dropping four inches of rain in two hours. To make things worse, the downpour came after three days of steady rain that had left the watersheds saturated. When the deluge hit, walls of water, mud, and debris came roaring down the canyons and creeks, washing out nearly every bridge in the south county. Below Mission Canyon, boulders and trees tumbled down San Marcos and Modoc roads and spilled into La Cumbre Jr. High. Further south, flows took out bridges along De La Guerra, Haley, and Ortega streets. In Montecito, 12 houses near Montecito Creek were washed away when the floodwaters overflowed from the creek channel and rushed down Hot Springs and Olive Mill roads. The storm left extensive damage to roadways and bridges, leaving the streets full of mud, boulders, and tree trunks.

Three deaths were recorded in the Santa Barbara area. One teenage boy was killed near La Cumbre Jr. High; his body was recovered from a ditch on Chino Street. 

The other two victims were Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Mr. Jones was the president of the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, and the two had been dining at the Montecito Country Club (then located at the current site of the Music Academy of the West) when the flooding began. 

With phone lines out, the two attempted to make the journey back to their children, who were at home, located on the north side of East Valley Road between San Ysidro Creek and Park Lane. Unable to cross flooded Olive Mill Road, the couple abandoned their car and walked along the highway to the Miramar Hotel. Ignoring the owner’s pleas to spend the night, the couple took a lantern and attempted to walk home along San Ysidro Road. Unfortunately, the couple never made it and likely drowned while trying to cross Oak Creek. Their bodies were discovered the next day in a field near Montecito Union School. Fortunately for their children, the babysitter had noticed the rising waters of San Ysidro Creek and took the children to a neighbor’s house, located on higher ground.

Old Spanish Town in Montecito, at East Valley Road and Montecito Creek, 1914.
Intersection of Olive Mill and Hot Springs roads, where Casa Dorinda is today.
Intersection of Olive Mill and Hot Springs roads, where Casa Dorinda is today.
Intersection of Olive Mill and Hot Springs roads, where Casa Dorinda is today.
Back To Top