Moving Forward in 2021: Rains Trigger Deja Vu of Morro Bay’s 1995 Flooding

Written by Judy Salamacha

February 12, 2021

Morro Bay’s Village Center Dry Cleaners owners David Owens and son Dak.

As January 2021 rainfall steadily doused the city for several days, Morro Bay’s Village Center Dry Cleaners owner, David Owens, experienced another bout of deja vu. His flashbacks take him back to March 10, 1995 when he and his father, Gary Owens, were called to action rescuing folks from their cars waterlogged under the Hwy. 1/Main Street underpass.
The corridor was flooded all the way to the intersection at Hwy. 46. David recalled. “Both of the trailer parks were flooded from all night rain (9.5-inches in less than 24 hours). A shed got loose and lodged under the highway so the water backed up.” The fire department was looking for a boat to rescue folks. David volunteered his inflatable Zodiac. “We used it for diving. It was stored at my parents a couple blocks from the cleaners. My dad (Gary Owens) was home, so I asked, ‘Dad, want to go rescue people?’”
They found three or four cars stalled near Radcliffe with “…water up to the roof.” Gary noticed…“the bottom of the water was to the top of the street sign. Estero Glass had cars parked with water running over them.”
Water was almost over his head when David stepped down into the Radcliffe intersection. “It was deep enough to run a 6-horse-power motor. One guy had dropped his keys and Dad dove and found them. Next there were two guys standing on top of their Volkswagen grateful to be rescued.”
They then motored to Preston Lane. People were trapped in an apartment complex. “We rescued two ladies, a guy and their cats. One lady was grateful we rescued her luggage.” When the firemen couldn’t take it, David added, “I had to leave Dad there because I didn’t have room. It was a bumpy ride going against a swift current getting the ladies out.” A lady with a heart condition made it, but one of the cat carriers sloshed out of control until they found the ambulance. David and Gary even rescued a CDF team. “Their turn-out suits filled with water as they were trying to dislodge the shed.”
As for the Owens rescue team, David said his shins “got banged up” from strong currents. They both got poison oak getting in and out of the water and David couldn’t get home, so spent the night with his parents.
It was definitely an experience David recalls every time heavy rain threatens Morro Bay’s infrastructure. “This time I was thinking I was about 24 then, the same age as my son, Dak, and if I had asked him, ‘Dak, do you want to rescue people?’ He’d quit everything and (father and son) would do it all over again.”
In a way Dak has come to David’s rescue once 2021 reveals a new normal. He recently made a career decision while taking business classes at Cuesta College. The business he wants to go into is the family business. With total confidence in Dak, David will be able to return to his dream job officiating in youth sports. 
“People don’t always think of it this way, but the officials are the third team on the field or court. That’s what I like – being part of the game.” Over the past twelve years David has done double-duty managing the cleaners and officiating for American Softball Association, recreation basketball, high school volleyball and baseball and had finally graduated up to Cal Poly volleyball and baseball. “It all came to a halt, but anticipating it will start up anytime, we have to be certified. We still pay our association for continued training classes.” 
Each member of the family is working through life adjustments during the pandemic. Basically healthy in retirement, Marlene, David’s mom, has remained active in Morro Bay Quota Club as has Gary in Rotary Club of Morro Bay. Both groups have been relegated to Zoom meetings and canceled fund raisers. 
“My wife Dawn is head cook at Morro Bay High School,” said David. “They still serve the Special Education students, but without on campus classes they are now assembling a 5-day supply of food for Friday pick-up for the students who used to receive breakfasts and lunches at school.”
After working years at Camp Hopitok, daughter Dari graduated from college with honors June, 2020 excited to begin her dream career as a bilingual speech pathologist. A proud father, David said, “She interviewed one day and was hired the next day by San Luis Coastal.” She was assigned to Baywood School’s bilingual campus, but without students, she’s been one of two serving the entire district as a speech pathologist.” 
Her brother, Dexton, finished his two year’s instruction at Cuesta College and was headed to California State University, Bakersfield. With all classes online, David said, “We’re saving money on housing. He has yet to set foot on campus.” Their youngest, Devan, studies online as a junior at Morro Bay High School.
As most business owners, last March 2020 David believed his primary focus would be the cleaners for just a couple weeks, but he’s been the only employee for almost a year.
 “When the Governor announced shelter-at-home, I put my five employees on half-time knowing it would be slow, but then March 20 was my last payroll. People working from home, not going out to dinner, weddings and not even church don’t need their dress-up clothes cleaned. I decided to lay-off my employees early so they could get at the front of the line for unemployment. What’s kept the business open has been laundry for people not wanting to go to the laundromat, but that won’t support a payroll.”
Dak Owens is now officially apprenticing and will become the third generation to own and operate Village Center Dry Cleaners located at 750 Napa Ave, Morro Bay,

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