Tyler Hayden’s Year in Review

Our Senior Editor Tyler Picks His Favorite Stories from 2018

For our annual review of stories, our writers and editors have put together lists of the stories they were proud of this year, or just had fun writing or reading. Here are Senior Editor Tyler Hayden’s picks.

If you’re in the mood for some light reading, you’re in the wrong place. This is a collection of my post-1/9 Debris Flow reporting, which attempts to understand how and why 23 people were violently killed in the middle of the night in Santa Barbara County’s deadliest natural disaster. Immediately after the catastrophe, a number of questions arose: How were people alerted to the danger? How were the evacuations zones drawn? Why did so few heed the warnings? Were any mistakes made? If they were, what were they? Who, if anyone, should be held accountable for such devastation? Individuals? Government? Climate change? God? And, most importantly, how can we learn from what happened to keep us safer in the future? These 14 stories, listed in the order they were published, answer many of those questions and, despite my best efforts, leave many others unanswered:

1/11: As Number of Missing Grows, Questions Arise Over County Warnings

1/12: More Scrutiny over Mandatory vs. Voluntary Evacuation Orders

1/16: Why Did So Few in Montecito Evacuate?

1/22: Majority of Mudslide Victims Were Not Under Mandatory Evac Orders

1/24: County Emergency Managers Issued Contradictory Warnings Before Montecito Mudslides

1/31: Climate Change Hits Home in Montecito Disaster

2/14: Why Did Highway 192 Separate Montecito’s Evac Zones?

2/22: First Responders Were Ready When the Debris Flow Hit

5/24: Internal Records Reveal Mixed Messages, Missed Opportunities Before 1/9 Debris Flow

6/14: Public Survey Exposes Montecito Debris Flow Communication Failures

9/27: County Disaster Management Deemed ‘Satisfactory’

10/13: Report on Disasters Praised, Criticized

10/25: New Debris Flow Evac Plan Announced

12/20: Study: Debris Flow Warnings Were Confusing, Unconvincing

I wrote about other things this year, too:

By Paul Wellman

630 State Street

The reasons behind the record number of retail vacancies along our downtown corridor, and ideas on how to fix the problem. As a journalist, you always hope one of your stories helps “move the needle.” I heard this one did. The Fight for State Street


The incredible journey of the InSight Mars lander from Vandenberg Air Force Base to the Red Planet. We got up close and personal with the machine itself and the big-brained NASA scientists that built it. Mission to Mars Launching from Santa Barbara

By Tyler Hayden

The S.B. team stands at the start of the five-mile course.

The trip of a lifetime to the Bonneville Salt Flats, where a Santa Barbara racing team chased land speed records across a sun-baked moonscape. Not everything went as planned. But hey, as they say, that’s racing. Santa Barbara Racers Chase Land Speed Records

By Paul Wellman (file)

The allegations of grift and Santa Barbara-style corruption that continue to swirl around the Bellosguardo Foundation. Bellosguardo: A Legacy in Limbo

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A Good Rain Finally Falls

Gibraltar Dam spills, Lake Cachuma is on the rise.

Can Santa Barbara Cope with Climate Change?

With the weather growing ever weirder, adaptation is now the name of the game.

Santa Barbara Struggles to Adapt to Sea-Level Rise

The City of Santa Barbara struggles to adapt to rising sea levels and save beaches and property.

Inside the Botanic Garden’s Fort Knox of Pressed Plants

Flora are the foundation of all habitats and will help stave off ecological collapse.

What Can I Do to Help Counteract Climate Change?

Opting out is no longer an option.