T.Coragnessan Boyle is a Novelist who lives in Montecito, California. In the article, The Absence in Montecito; T.Coragnessan Boyle, tells us his story of his dreadful experience after the horrific wildfires and mudslide that resulted in a complete absence of people in his community. Boyle starts the article off in retrospect, during the day after the mudslide occurred. Setting a dark and gloomy tone, his main concern is the lack of presence from his neighbors; He describes his neighborhood as a scrap yard with debris everywhere, the houses are dark, none have electricity, and no neighbors are to be found.
Boyle guides the reader’s attention to a backstory that explains why he moved to California in the first place. He loved the tall trees, the vibrant flowers, the fresh green grass, and even the dark brown dirt; Boyle loved the fact that he and his neighbors got to call California and all of its glory home. That is until it was all burnt to white ash during the biggest wildfire in California history.
Boyle shifts the story to the day before the fires spreading to Montecito. He recalls waking up to the faint smell of smoke in the crisp morning air on December 5th, 2017. Just like any other day, Boyle went outside to retrieve the morning paper but instead receives a surprise visit from a frantic sister in law Christine. Christine explained that she was evacuated due to a fire outbreak that took place the previous night near Santa Paula, then rapidly spread southwest to Ventura. After not being allowed to travel home for a week the evacuation notice was lifted and authorities deemed the area safe for Christine to travel back to her house.
Despite four hundred and twenty-seven structures burning to ash, Christine’s house was untouched and whole. Boyle was in disbelief to the remorselessness of the fire. He knew California was in a five-year drought and it wouldn’t be long until the fire ignited over the mountains to Montecito forcing him and his family to evacuate their home. On December 16th the Disaster continued to spread now heading straight for Montecito, he describes the smoke as “capes of black envelopes” saying “the ash whitened everything so abundantly that you might mistake it for snow if it weren’t for the unnatural heat”.
Unfortunately, The state of California enforced a new evacuation order, forcing Boyle away from his home in Montecito and up the coast to safety with his wife and daughter. The State lifted the evacuation notice ten days later. Boyle and his family returned home to Montecito.
On January 9th the forecast for the next few days was predicted to be very heavy rainfall, which in comparison to the rapid wildfires, didn’t seem like much of a threat to Boyle. By the next morning, rain fell like bowling balls as each drop crashed onto the roof, waking up Boyle and his wife. He looked at the mountains and saw a shimmering light, at first glance he assumed it was lightning then, later on, discovered it was concentrated rain flowing with debris down the slope of the mountain.
The next day they woke to light rain and the howl of various sirens. The Boyles’ lost electricity, but luckily little to no damage was done to their home. Just two blocks from the houses were described to be “ground zero, the worst of the destruction”. Boyle drove into Santa Barbara to get an update on the news of the disaster. When he arrived at a diner for breakfast he was informed that the storm had killed twenty of his neighbors, and three still missing.
Boyle feels an abundance of gratitude regarding his family and their homes’ safety. Below his home lies a shallow creek bed, and on that night the debris flow took with it everything in the path wiping out houses and cars, tearing trees out of the ground by their roots, as gigantic boulders tumble through the water rapids. The mud and ash reached about fifteen feet in some places.
On the sixth day after the storm, Boyle explored some of the devastated areas nearby. The damage was unimaginable, enormous mudflats take place of tall beautiful homes that had once been a neighborhood. All familiarity from the last twenty-five years in the landmarks has vanished which Boyle finds especially disturbing. Boyle and his family may have been the lucky ones to survive the catastrophic events, However Boyle feels remorse for the fact that twenty of his neighbors are dead, and three are missing.
Boyle, T Coraghessan. “After the Mudslides an Absence in Montecito.” Www.Newyorker.com, 22 Jan. 2018, www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/after-the-mudslides-an-absense-in-montecito.