Three homes owned by one family on an off-the-grid Los Gatos, California property were devastated in a “massive mudslide” during heavy storms on Tuesday, and a daughter who lives there used Facebook Live to plead for help.
“Everything’s being destroyed,” Jennifer Ray, 32, a stay-at-home mom, is heard saying on the 7:47 a.m. post, her voice teary and frantic. “The dogs are trapped in the car. Oh my God.”
In an interview on Wednesday with NBC Bay Area, Ray said she didn’t know what else to do because there is no cell service in that area, and her land line was dead. Luckily, she has satellites on the property, and so her Wi-Fi was working. She streamed what was going on – it was the only way she thought she could let the world know she was in trouble.
Los Gatos is a small unincorporated town in Santa Clara County, which comprises starkly different types of neighborhoods, from the extremely affluent, to the extremely secluded. Ray and her family live way off the beaten track on Bear Creek Road between Big Basin Redwoods State Park and the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. The property technically has a Santa Cruz address.
Her friends quickly chimed in, many of them saying that they’d call for help. But fire crews couldn’t even get to her property at first; it was covered in mud. California was pummeled Tuesday with storms, flooding and mudslides on Tuesday, following a wet January that has saturated the once drought-stricken state.
Eventually, Ray, her mother, her sister and three kids got into two cars that they were able to get free from the brown muck that had engulfed the five acres she lives on. And they drove to her grandmother’s house in San Mateo, where she is staying indefinitely. Her husband, a union wire man, her brother-in-law, who works in the Menlo school district, and her father, David Marzetta, who is out of work with an injured knee, all stayed behind.
There was a "giant landslide," Marzetta said. Admitting he is shaken up, he added that the slide "sounded like a jet plane landing on the property. I jumped out and heard someone yell."
As he was surveying his property on Wednesday, Marzetta stumbled across "keepsakes buried in mud," including a Christmas ornament. "Debris everywhere," he said, adding that all he cares about is his family. "My first thought was, 'How are my kids? How are my grand kids?'"
Mudslide Devastates Family Property in Los Gatos
The good news is that no one was injured when the mudslide took her pregnant sister’s home off its foundation, washed away her car, laundry room and tool shed, and ripped off the roof. Ray said her sister was inside the mobile home when the mud pushed it about eight feet downhill. It is now uninhabitable.
The loose mud also shoved the play equipment in her own backyard closer to her own house, which actually stayed intact. Her father's home wasn't totally damaged either. But a friend, Tina Foster, set up a GoFundMe page, to help pay for expenses that insurance won't cover and replace lost belongings, especially for Ray's sister, Jessica Ward.
While all this was happening, Ray’s two children witnessed Mother Nature at work. “All we could do is watch as it all came down and trap my mom's dogs in her car,” she said. When she saw a roof floating by in the muck, she feared the worst: “I was thinking my sister and my niece were dead.”
Ray knows that where she chose to live is remote and prone to fires, mountain lions, falling trees and mudslides. But it was her father’s dream to live there with his daughters, which they have been doing, quite happily, for two years.
“We knew the dangers of living off the grid,” she said, but because of her father’s desire to live together, she said “we knew we wanted to try it.”
As for her father, he is the “strongest man” that Ray knows, but the mudslide tearing their family apart, at least temporarily, was too much for him to bear. “Yesterday, he cried as he held my sister,” she said. “It was heartbreaking to watch my father’s dreams…wash away.”
As for what’s next, Ray and her family are trying to sort out what insurance will pay for and what it won’t. But she knows she wants to get back to their home as soon as they can, even though her father said he's thinking twice about where he chose to live; not for his safety but for the others.
“It’s a beautiful place to raise our kids,” she said. “As a family we know we can get through it together. We do love it up there.”
NBC Bay Area's Michelle Cabuag-Lim, Michelle Roberts and Bob Redell contributed to this report.