Jim's Blog

Mudslides in Southern California : A Well Thought Out Scream by James Riordan

Mud1And it all came tumbling down.  In 1978 I moved from Illinois to Malibu, California. My rent went from $145 a month to $1,050 a month.  I lived in a five bedroom house with four roommates.  There were famous people everywhere.  Movie stars in the grocery store. rock stars in the bars. Some of them were jerks but most of them were very nice.  About every other day or so I’d walk four houses down to Gary Busey’s house because our sons were fighting.  Gary was great and easy to deal with…but Gary didn’t get until around 5p.m. so most of the time I was dealing with his wife.  Malibu is a strange place.  Our town drunks were Gary, Jan Michael Vincent (Airwolf) and Nick Nolte.  One time a friend of mine came out of a local bar and found Nick Nolte sitting in the trunk of a car. My friend offered to help him, but Nick said, “Naw, I’m fine…it’s all good.”  My friend said, “Nick, you’re in the trunk of a car.” And Nick, “Yeah, I know.  It’s all good, I’m fine.”


Another thing you hd to deal with in Malibu was mudslides.  At one point while I was living there, they built a thirty foot high wall on Pacific Coast Highway to hold back the mud.  It if rained for too many days in a row the mud would start sliding.  Sometimes it would take a multi-million dollar hour or two into the Pacific Ocean.  Usually there was enough warning signs that no one got hurt.  Some of the folks who lived around Montecito, California, were not so lucky this week as mudslides there have killed at least twenty people according to the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday that 30-year-old Pinit Sutthithepa had been found dead. Four people, ranging in age from 2 to 53, remain missing. The mudslides came in the early morning hours of Tuesday, destroying an estimated 65 homes and damaging hundreds of others, the Cal Fire release said.



Digging out of a mudslide is a horrible experience and even now rescue crews are sifting through the mud and wreckage looking for the missing.  On Saturday, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown announced that search and rescue crews had found the body of 25-year-old Morgan Corey whose 12-year-old sister, Sawyer, had been  found dead earlier in the week.



Mud10Mud2The victims range in age from 3 to 89, and all lived in Montecito in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles. Rescuers have been searching frantically for the missing since rivers of mud and boulders plowed through neighborhoods there destrpying homes and leaving roads impassable. “In disaster circumstances, there have been many miraculous stories of people lasting many days. We certainly are searching for a miracle right now,” Brown said Thursday. “But realistically we suspect that we are going to continue to have discovery of people who were killed in this incident.”

Officials have stressed they expect the number of missing persons “to fluctuate significantly.”  US 101, a major freeway connecting Northern and Southern California, remains closed. It’s not clear when the highway — which officials had said would reopen on Monday — will be cleared for travel.

Mud6The areas where people have been killed are now under mandatory evacuation, and officials increased the size of the evacuation zone Thursday as authorities continue their search and rescue efforts. “We know that this a terribly inconvenient development, but it is also incredibly necessary,” Brown said. “This entire area is a very active rescue and recovery and repair zone right now.”

The zone, which includes areas formerly under voluntary evacuation advisories, will be in effect for one week but residents should plan for two, Brown said. Rescue workers are using helicopters and all-terrain vehicles in a search hampered by blocked roads and downed trees and power lines.

Mud7Billy Grokenberger lives in a part of Montecito that was under a voluntary evacuation order. He and his parents put their belongings in three cars in case they decided to leave before the storm. They didn’t. “We had thought about leaving, but we had just had the fires,” he said, referring to the recent wildfires that stripped the area of needed vegetation. “… We didn’t take it serious(ly) enough.”

On the morning of the storm, Grokenberger watched as two to three feet of water streamed down the street. “(In) four minutes the water was through our wall and in our house, almost to the second story,” he said.  “The house is destroyed, but you know, there’s just so many others who are less fortunate. But we just feel lucky that we were able to get out and (are) alive.”

There is always a risk of mudslides in certain areas of California. Still the people stay.  Many people who have lost homes in the mudslides over the years rebuilt in the same area.  It’s like the huge fires that come roaring through certain areas every few years.  The people refuse to leave.

Mud8In fact, it is the fires that increase the likelihood of a mudslide.  The latest storm came in strong between 3 and 6 a.m. Tuesday.  The rain poured down on hillsides charred by recent wildfires, which burned vegetation that otherwise could make the terrain more resistant to mudslides. The Thomas Fire — the largest wildfire in California’s recorded history — burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties from early December into this month and wasn’t fully contained until this week.  Geologists and forecasters warned that an intense rain could trigger deadly mudslides from the scorched areas.

The truth is that, as a result of the fire, communities below the scarred terrain will remain at risk of mudslides for years. Montecito may be at slightly less risk now, because this week’s flooding already brought down vulnerable material. “(But) no storm brings down everything that is susceptible. There’s almost always more” that could come down, Randall Jibson, a research geologist with the US Geological Survey. said.

TMud14he threat of such terrible slides could be reduced by building more basins to slow down storm runoff and collect debris, but the biggest problem civil authorities face is getting the public ready to evacuate during heavy rains.  Montecito and Carpinteria are especially vulnerable to mudslides because their steep terrain in some places goes from thousands of feet above sea level to the ocean in just a few miles, said Tom Fayram, a deputy public works director with Santa Barbara County.

No matter the threat though, most people who lost homes and even family members in the slides, will just rebuild and hope they are luckier next time.  That’s how it rolls in Southern California.




The Author

James Riordan

James Riordan

Rare is it that any author will have one of his books described as the definitive work on a particular subject, but such a distinction has been bestowed by critics on no less than four books written by James Riordan. The New York Times Bestseller Break on Through, Riordan’s biography of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, has not only been called “the most objective, thorough and professional Morrison biography” by the Times Book Review but also named as one of the Ten All Time Best Rock Biographies by Amazon.com. Riordan’s The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco) was called “One of the best how-to books ever written” by the Los Angeles Daily News and “The ultimate career book on the music industry” by Recording, Engineer & Producer. Critics described Riordan’s The Bishop of Rwanda as “one of the most important books you’ll ever read.” and The Coming of the Walrus, Riordan’s novel about the 60s as “the definitive book on the era” and “a hilarious tale of a harrowing search for the greatest truth of all”. With the release of A Well Thought Out Scream and Madman in the Gate, Riordan pushed the boundaries again with poetry/song lyric books that contain hundreds of stunning, beautiful and poignant images from artists and photographers from all over the world. In the summer of 2013 a new edition of The Coming of the Walrus was released to rave reviews followed by The Kill Switch. The author of thirty-three books, James Riordan’s career began in the music industry where as a songwriter, manager, producer and concert promoter he worked with several well known artists. In 1976 he began writing a newspaper column, Rock-Pop, which he later syndicated. Riordan soon became one of America’s premier rock journalists with articles reaching millions of readers including those of Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Circus, Musician, and newspapers like The Chicago Daily News and The Kansas City Star. His reputation for relating on a one-to-one level soon led to interviews with George Harri-son, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Zappa, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Mandrell, Crosby, Stills & Nash and countless others. His first book, The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco in 1980) became the largest selling book ever written about the music business. The guide to “succeeding in the music business without selling your soul” was praised by Variety ,The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Las Vegas Sun, The Minneapolis Tribune, Billboard, Record World and many more. The Platinum Rainbow became an industry-wide phenomenon and interviews with James Riordan were aired on over 1200 radio stations and numerous television talk shows. Next Riordan collaborated with Pulitzer Prize winner Jason Miller on a mini-series for network television (The Irish) and a movie of the week for CBS (Bless Me Father). In June 1991, William Morrow & Co. published Break On Through to outstanding sales and reviews. Riordan worked as a consultant on Oliver Stone’s film of Morrison’s life, The Doors, which led to his writing Stone’s biography. Published by Hyperion /Disney in December 1995, Entertainment Weekly called STONE “an unflinching biography... enough spectacle to fill a month of daytime-TV talk shows.” The New York Post said reading the book was like “the sensory overload of watching all of Oliver Stone’s movies back to back.” Riordan was interviewed by Inside Edition, People Magazine, The Tom Snyder Show, and many others. From 1997-2000, Riordan created and co-starred in a local television program, Kankakee Valley Prime Time, which won six Crystal Communicators, three Tellys, and earned Riordan a Chicago/ Midwest Emmy Nomination for Writing the program. In the summer of 1999, James Riordan wrote, directed and starred in Maddance, an hour long dramatic project which won Crystal Communicators for Drama, Writing, Acting and Directing. On April 9, 2000, James’ 16 year old son, Jeremiah, was killed as a passenger in an accident that involved three drunk drivers. Shortly after this, James founded Make it Stick which works to warn teens of the dangers of substance abuse and publishes a magazine distributed to high school students. In 2001, he founded Jeremiah’s – A Place to be Yourself to give teens a place to hang out away from the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Force to close by its incredible growth rate, Jeremiah’s was recognized as one of the fastest growing and most successful teen centers in the United States. In 2004, Toastmasters International named Riordan Communicator of the Year for Central Illinois, the YMCA gave him their Service to Youth Award and the United Way named him the Outstanding Volunteer of Kankakee County. Returning to writing, Riordan went to Africa to write The Bishop of Rwanda, (with an intro by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren). In November of 2006, Harper Collins released a new edition of Break On Through followed by The Coming of the Walrus (Image Workshop) in December and The Bishop of Rwanda (Thomas Nelson, Inc.) to rave reviews (“Powerful …plumbs the depths of God’s forgiveness and finds no bottom – Publisher’s Weekly). In 2011, he won the Pledge For Life Harold Award for his work with area youth. In the summer of 2012, Lee and Shane Stanley (Gridiron Gang) optioned Maddance as a feature film followed by Apothecary Films optioning The Kill Switch in 2013 and Omni Films optioning Final Service to film in May. Riordan joined the staff of the Mancow Syndicated Television and Radio show in January of 2014 and is now seen and heard across America on a weekly basis. His biography is included in Who’s Who in Entertainment , Who’s Who in Poetry and Contemporary Authors of America. James Riordan – Works Books The Kill Switch, novel with Andrew Dahlmaine, Stonegate Ink, 2013 The Coming of the Walrus, Trade Paperback Editn, Image Workshop 2012 Springboard To Heaven ( Jojo Sayson Adventure), Image Workshop, 2012 The Elijah Collection, novel collection with Bill Myers, Zondervan, 2011 The Well Thought Out Scream (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 Madman in the Gate (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 The Deadly Loyalty Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Ancient Forces Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Enemy Strikes with Bill Myers (Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 Deception with Bill Myers (Book 2 Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 The Bishop of Rwanda (Finding Forgiveness) Thomas Nelson, March 2007 Paperback Edition May, 2012 The Coming of the Walrus (What Really Happened in the '60s) IW, 2006 Break on Through (The Life & Death of Jim Morrison), Morrow, 1991. (New York Times Bestseller, Published in 5 languages, Hardcover, 5 Paperback Editions, Harper Trade Paperback November, 2006) Stone (The Controversies, Excesses & Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker), Disney/Hyperion,1995. (Published in 3 languages, Hardcover, Paperback Edition). Making It in the New Music Business, Writers Digest Books, 1987, (Second Edition, Revised and Updated 1991, Two Hardcover Editions) The Platinum Rainbow (How to Succeed in the Music Business Without Selling Your Soul) 250,000 copies with Bob Monaco, Swordsman Press, 1980, Twenty-Three Editions, Revised 1988) 25 Year Anniversary Edition, 2005 Capture the Wind (Microphones) w.Tom Lubin, Literary Mouse Press,1989 Private Biography of Russ Kalvin, founder of Kalvin Corp., 1990 Private Biography of Steve Stefano, founder of Joico Hair Products, 1993. Mystery of the Invisible Knight (Book 2 in the BloodHounds Series) with Bill Myers, Bethany House,1997. Matters of the Heart (The Life & Times of Edgar Cullman), Culbro, 1997. The Curse (Book 7 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1997. The Undead (Book 8 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1996. The Scream (Book 9 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1998 The Ancients (Book 10 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1999. The Cards (Book 11 Forbidden Doors Series) with Bill Myers, Tyndale,2000 Films Final Service, co-written with Gary Moore and based on his book, Omni Productions, to be filmed in May, 2014. Maddance, Writer/Director/Lead Actor, Search Engine Films, Simmcomm, 1999. (Winner of 4 Crystal Communicators including Best Drama, Screenplay, Director, Male Actor – Austin, TX.1999) Performance (The Life of Ingrid Bergman), Screenplay, Lancit Productions 1998. Returned to Author when film division closed)Rewritten2009 Shadowdancers, Story & Screenplay, Story with Bill Myers, 1997 Dr. Babylon, Story 1996. Air Guitar, Story & Screenplay, 1994 The Platinum Rainbow, Story & Screenplay, 1993 Television/Video Kankakee Valley Prime Time, Writer, Director, Producer, 1997-2000. (Nominated for Midwest/Chicago Emmy for Writing, 1998, 3 Telly Awards, 4 Crystal Communicators 1998-2000). Angels Among Us (The Amtrak City of New Orleans Train Disaster, Co- Producer, (Telly Award, 2000). River Valley Sports Authority, Producer, 1999-2003. I Hate The World (Hypnoises Music Video), Writer/Director/Producer, Crystal Communicator for Best Music Video Concept, 1998). The United Way (Video) Crystal Communicator for Best Video for a Charitable Organization, 1998.

If it isn't money and it isn't fame and it isn't sex... then what... God?

— James Riordan, 2000

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