101 reopens in Santa Barbara area after crews spending hours clearing mud from roadway

Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Crews working to clear closed 101 freeway in Santa Barbara
Recent storms left the 101 Freeway caked in mud in the Santa Barbara area, leading to a full closure of lanes.

MONTECITO, Calif. (KABC) -- The rare sight of the 101 looking wide open in Southern California could only mean one thing: The freeway was completely shut down.

The series of relentless storms that have pounded Southern California in recent days led to flooding and mudflows in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties that left the 101 and many other roads and freeways caked in mud.

Crews spent hours cleaning up the 101 after days of rain overwhelmed the water's other paths to the ocean.

By late Tuesday afternoon both sides of the freeway were once again open in the Santa Barbara area, after being closed for hours while crews worked to clear the mud.

Some drivers ended up getting stuck on side roads or offramps for hours or even a full day.

Dan Jansen was visiting the region from Minnesota but quickly found himself have to evacuate because everything was being shut down.

Not exactly the California vacation he was expecting.

"You know we see natural disasters in Minnesota but when you observe it and you see these creeks overflowing and people realizing I've got nowhere to go, especially in the smaller towns, you realize what a problematic situation you're in," Jansen said.

But as the clouds and rain started clearing Tuesday afternoon, the high waters and damage became a bit of a tourist attraction. Some came out just to observe how high the Ventura River was flowing - just a few feet under some bridges.

"Just kind of sensational," said Christine Hantgin of Ventura. "We've been taking all kinds of photos and it's like OK, another one that we take. It's just kind of spectacular the way it's overflowed."

Cleanup crews reopened the southbound lanes of the 101 in the Montecito area between Ventura and Santa Barbara early Tuesday afternoon and had the northbound side reopened by late afternoon.

Santa Barbara County officials also lifted evacuation orders that were in place for Carpinteria, Montecito and Santa Barbara as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.