Business & Economy

The mudslide closure of the 101 is hurting Santa Barbara businesses

A dirt truck assists with the cleanup of the 101 Freeway on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, following the devastating mudslides that killed at least 17 people and destroyed dozens of homes in Santa Barbara County.
A dirt truck assists with the cleanup of the 101 Freeway on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, following the devastating mudslides that killed at least 17 people and destroyed dozens of homes in Santa Barbara County.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

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The mudslides that hit Santa Barbara County last week continue to clog a main artery for cars and trucks trying to get through the area. Some local business owners say the prolonged shut down of the 101 freeway has led to missed shipments and lost revenues. 

A CalTrans spokesman estimated that each day, roughly 7,500 trucks normally pass through the stretch of the 101 currently closed while cleanup crews work to remove mud and debris that piled up due to last week's storms. 

Getting farm shipments out on time is crucial to Santa Barbara County's many flower growers. June Van Wingerden, co-owner of Ocean Breeze Farms in Carpinteria, says their crops are highly perishable.

"With cut flowers, we harvest almost every day, so we ship every day," Van Wingerden said. But she wasn't able to get shipments out just after the mudslides.

"We lost at least two days of shipping, and that cost us probably about $50,000 a day in lost revenue," she said. 

Drivers are now back to making deliveries for Ocean Breeze Farms, but Van Wingerden says one routine round trip that usually takes three hours is now taking eight. After the fires, the mudslides, and then the freeway closure, she’s ready for business to get back to normal sometime soon.

California Cut Flower Commission CEO Kasey Cronquist said truck drivers who normally deliver flowers in round trips that take up only one workday are now driving longer routes that don't fit into typical schedules. 

"It's making for a difficult scenario in trying to make all this mathematically work in a day," he said.

California Trucking Association senior vice president Eric Sauer said agriculture is one of the major industries bringing truck drivers into the Santa Barbara area, but he expects shipments of other kinds of goods will be affected too. 

"It's obviously going to have an impact on all sorts of commodities," Sauer said. 

California transportation officials have said the 101 freeway will remain closed until next week.