by craig eddy
In 1998, about ten months after my wife and I opened the Merry Prankster Café in La Honda, the weather forecasts were becoming ominous. El Nino is coming, El Nino is coming! My wife Laurie and I decided to do what we could to be ready. We purchased a 10,000 watt generator and ran emergency electric cables into each room of the café. As can happen here in the coastal mountains things went bad quickly. Due to a blocked culvert on Sears Ranch road all the runoff spilled into the La Honda Gardens from above flooding the Market and surrounding area. I received a call about flooding in the Café and raced down from the house to find an inch of water in the kitchen and rising. I went to the firehouse and got several sand bags and was able to stop the water from getting inside. Soon the kitchen floor drain was able to allow all the water to drain out. We lost power, water and propane. Rather than throw in the towel we brought down our catering camp stove, propane bottles and lots of 5 gallon jugs of water. We were able to stay open the entire nine days providing soups, sandwiches, and salads thanks to our landlord Charlie Catania who made his way through all the mud, down trees, and down power lines with a truck full of six gallon gas cans. Right after that the roads were all closed and nobody was allowed in or out for a week and a half. Each morning people would come down to see if the road was open and then come into the Prankster and hang out as we had heat and food. That first night was crazy. We had Jim Reswick come in and ask to make sushi on the bar since all the expensive ingredients he’d just purchased were going to go bad. A few musicians set up and played live acoustic music. It became quite a social night. On the down side though there were several folks in the dining room in tears as they had lost their homes in the big Cuesta mudslide. One of our waitresses had just moved into an upstairs apartment next to Pescadero Creek and she lost everything. With nowhere to go she figured she might as well come in and work. Locals gave her huge tips when they heard her story. God I love La Honda! Channel 11 news came in with a camera crew and filmed for the late night news. It took them all day to find a way into La Honda so it was dark by the time they made it. The only sign of life was the lit up and happening café. For many days people who were new to the area sat side-by-side with the old timers and lots of new friendships were started, some of which remain today. After the water went down people like Con Law pulled cars out of the creek for no charge. Did I mention I LOVE LA HONDA?
I guess the point of this revisiting of El Nino is to let the folks that weren’t here for El Nino know just how bad it can get here. Back then we had no phone communication, the Red Cross did nothing helpful either in Pescadero or La Honda, we were clearly on our own. These days many things have changed in our level of readiness. We have nearly 40 trained Ham radio operators for emergency communications. We have many people who have gone through Community Emergency Response Training (CERT), we have a group that is trained to handle area animals that might need care, and we have an awesome volunteer fire department. Even with all this new training and readiness there are still lots of things each person and each family needs to be aware of for these kinds of disasters. Emergency food and water supplies, first aid stuff, and a generator with some gas should be a part of every household. Just keep in mind that there are times in our area when the phones go down and roads are closed and we are on our own. It is a good idea to either become a Ham radio operator so you can get a call out for help if needed or at least know if there is one near your home that you can go to and get a call out for emergency help. Here’s hoping we get lots of rain over the rest of our winter and spring, just not in amounts that create major problems for us.