The Ben Lomond, Ca / Love Creek Mudslide Disaster of Jan. 1982
Since Fill's picture below is dated January 1982 like the rest of the Mudslide photos, I suspect it was shot the same day as the others or real close to them.
So here's the rap about the Big Storm of Winter 1981/82. It was the normal long, dark, gloomy, rainy winter up at the Cabin (no electricity, bathroom separate from the main house) and this particular rainstorm had been socked in for days, dumping tons of water. One day the water by the evening was coming down the mountain everywhere, not just in the usual erosion channels and creekbeds, but Everywhere in a continuous ten-inch-deep wall of water. I didn't realize the danger I was in from mudslide at that time, but was concerned with the massive amounts of water pouring down the mountain. It was stunning.
The next morning the storm had broken, I was out in the yard near the Love Creek Road and some neighbors came by going back up to their place, after having been down the road, and they said "You'd better have a look down there- you won't believe what's happened- a huge slide..." and so on.
As it turned out, an entire neighborhood nearby was washed away in mud and debris. A huge area was unrecognizable. One hundred acres of mountain were completely shifted downhill, a whole new vista of the upper range had opened up- one had not been able to see the top of the ridge before at all, and now everything from 200 feet down had been pulled down here towards the creekbed in the valley, just like it had been a big soggy carpet with trees planted on it and houses, and it all just slid down an inclined piece of glass to go 'smooomph' at the bottom. I still don't know how many houses exactly were lost- I know at least six houses were up that road that no longer existed. Several people were killed, we later learned, and there was so much house and mountain debris that it took many weeks of work before they were able to punch a road through that area again. I was packing in food for me and the animals for a while.
My father and friends in Santa Cruz weren't sure for many hours if I was even still alive up there- they tried to hike over the ridge from the other side but couldn't get through.
Above we see 'downtown' Ben Lomond as locals try to clear the mud from the street. This looks to be right in front of the food market, a spot I remember well. Quite a storm if it put this much mess here- it was a steep area, but this isn't even that close to the bigger hills, and it's still a mess.
Now below we get into pictures of the slide itself. I'd forgotten all about these, and they recently turned up again, and it brought all of these memories back. The slide disaster area was so vast that it really doesn't come across in stills very well. All I can say is, what looks below like a sunny, messy mountainside was once a shady, windy road going up the mountain in a sort of small neighborhood, one of the last ones on the paved part of Love Creek Road, before it becomes gravel (and barely that) as you go up on the private part of the road to our place. I was about a mile further up from this.
There was speculation at the time that this ridgeline may have become weakened more during the storm because there is a lake, Loch Lomond, just on the other side of this ridge, and it may have helped to build up a slippery, watery layer along the bedrock when this all came sliding down. The vastness and destructiveness of it are hard to convey- unless you've seen something like it yourself.
I like this shot (below)- here we are standing where the roadbed would have been, perhaps a bit below, as there isn't anymore road, and Love Creek, there on the left, seems a bit too nearby, but we're at the upper edge of the bottom of the slide, facing up the road towards my cabin. This also gives an idea of the 'darkness and closeness' that is part of the scenery of most of these low-in-the-valley/near-to-the-creek areas, and how it contrasts to the slide area, where all of it is torn away, and sun and views are streaming in.
The picture below (these all were shot by Fill Dobbs, by the way) is labeled 'local newsmen on the scene', here we are on the 'lower' edge of the slide, sort of looking up into it. Behind us would be where the road into town still existed somewhat. Mixed bits of residences are strewn all over.
Below we are looking straight up into the slide, standing in what used to be the dark, tree-choked area. Way up on our right one can see where the major shear occurred which brought down the massive wall of material. I wish there was an accompanying shot to show the other half of it from this same spot, but this gives a good idea of the scope of it. One could never see this ridgetop at all, previously.
So, for those who lost someone in the 'slide, or lived near there, a few pictures from that dark, rainy winter.
This was my last year full-time at the Lantern on Love Creek Road, and I miss it a lot; but not those winters! And certainly after that, I was more worried about the ridge up above our cabin!
Below, an enlarged section of the previous photo.