“While we’re in limbo, there will be no respite” – Val Hollen
By Julie Horner
Locals have seen the force of unrelenting nature first hand while making the daily migration to Barbara Day Park to snap photos of the swollen San Lorenzo River surging over the dam. On the other side of the bridge, a lone home clings to its moorings against a moving mountain.
On February 7, the hillside behind Kirk and Val Hollen’s Boulder Creek home gave way, taking down trees and boulders and slamming into the back wall of the house. Storm watchers at Junction Park several hundred yards upstream reported hearing the initial rumble of earth set into motion punctuated by the rending crack of uprooting tree line. The slide, Val Hollen said, “Made a terrible noise when the compression shock hit the house.” No humans were home at the time of the slide and no one was hurt. Elke the German Shepherd was immediately rescued from inside the home, visibly shaken but OK. The mud, rocks, and debris came to rest with enough force to cause windows to shatter.
“The house is still on its foundation,” Val reports, and the home is insured. “There was a lot of mud on the back wall and we’re working with a hydrogeologist. It’s just been a bit frightening.” Her husband, Kirk, and his team of volunteers have managed to clear the mud away from the home but there are serious unknowns. “We don’t know about the availability of the FEMA funds and there are insurance deadlines to file with the county.” They will have to pay out-of-pocket for necessary inspections. “Everything costs money. We need to have a geologic report that is mandatory, and the mitigation plan for the unsafe and dangerous conditions. I’m not sure where we are about it, actually. I’m feeling like I’m not as shocked and terrified anymore – but I’m lying – it’s awful.”
“Short term there is a lot of rallying around. Most of the assistance that is out there – Red Cross has been awesome – is immediate. Do you need a blanket? Do you need a roof over your head?” Now it’s not immediate anymore; the medium and long term is the problem. “We’re staring down the next 6 months to a year. It’s very scary. Two weeks in a friend’s guest bedroom is not the same as six or eight months – you won’t be friends at the end of it.” And there’s nothing out there for rental housing, she finds. “We want to be staying near the house to be keeping an eye on it properly.” But after a frustrating search in Boulder Creek, it looks like temporary accommodations will probably be in Scotts Valley while the couple tackles the requirements that will determine the fate of their property.
A GoFundMe campaign to help the Hollens with some of these daunting expenses has reached $9,779 of a $20k goal. Donations continue to be gratefully accepted: www.gofundme.com/veterans-home-hit-by-mudslide
“I just want to thank everyone who has reached out to offer help, hugs and otherwise send good vibes. This has always been an awesome town and we’re not planning on leaving! We’re taking it one step at a time and one day at a time and remaining grateful for all the things we do have.”
Copyright 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, March 2017 issue. www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net | www.facebook.com/SantaCruzMountainBulletin/