Landslide in USA on January 09 2018 06:51 PM (UTC).
Santa Barbara County authorities said Thursday afternoon up to 43 people are missing as a result of the mudslides this week in the Montecito area. As of that time, the confirmed death toll from the Southern California disaster stood at 17 people. Crews continued to search for victims on Thursday afternoon and the effort was expected to continue through the night. Devastating floods and mudflows were triggered Tuesday after heavy rain fell on areas recently burned in the massive Thomas fire, the largest wildfire in California history. The wildfire left charred hillsides without vegetation cover to hold the heavy rainfall. The water and powerful debris flows destroyed about 100 homes and damaged 300 others in the Montecito community, known for its multimillion-dollar properties. Mudflows traveled through neighborhoods near where Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres have homes. "There are 43 people now who may be considered as missing," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters at a Thursday afternoon press conference. "This remains a very active search and rescue mission." In updating the missing figure, Brown said that the precise number could fluctuate significantly. The number provided by county officials earlier in the day was eight missing. "This is a constantly changing list," he said. The sheriff told reporters all of the victims were from Montecito. He said those who perished range in age from three to 89 years old. "There are four juveniles on the list," he said. "There are mothers, fathers, grandfathers, siblings and the list goes on and on." The devastation affected an area estimated at 30 square miles, according to Cal Fire.
Authorities now say 17 people have died in Southern California mudslides and another 17 are missing. The death toll rose Wednesday as searchers pulled two more bodies from the inundated area in the Santa Barbara County enclave of Montecito. Flash floods there on Tuesday swept immense amounts of mud, water and debris down from foothills that were stripped of brush by the recent Thomas wildfire. Authorities say at least 100 homes have been destroyed. Hundreds of firefighters and others are hunting through the mud and wreckage. Three people were rescued Wednesday and authorities say about 75 percent of the devastated area has been searched.
Marc Phillips slogged up and down the streets of Montecito Tuesday in his mud-caked jeans, marveling at the devastation. Phillips pointed at areas on Parra Grande Road, where homes used to be. "It looks like there was never a house there, but it was," he said. It was that kind of day in one neighborhood in this upscale Santa Barbara County coastal city, where waves of mud destroyed homes and killed several people. That some neighborhoods had been threatened by the Thomas fire just weeks earlier made it hard for some people to process the twin disasters. Bridget Bottoms' footsteps splashed through the mud as she and other residents ran to move out of a bulldozer's way. "Get over!" the driver yelled as he tried making his way down the muddy street. Bottoms, shivering in her white hoodie, stood on a door that flew off from a nearby house. "There's never been anything like this," Bottoms said. Mud from a swollen creek slammed into homes in the 300 block of Hot Springs Road and nearby streets. The area was not directly in the Thomas fire burn zone, officials said. During the fires, the location was under voluntary evacuation because it was far south of the burn area, so officials issued only voluntary evacuation orders there Monday night as the storm approached. One person was found under a 101 Freeway overpass after a home a half-mile north was hit by floods and the person was carried away, said Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman. The person's condition was unknown. Crews rescued six people and a dog after four houses were destroyed. The mud lifted one residence off its foundation and carried it into trees, where it collapsed, Eliason said. Firefighters used the "jaws of life" to cut their way into the home, where a firefighter heard muffled cries for help, Eliason said. A rescue dog pinpointed the location of a 14-year-old girl, and two hours later the mud-covered teen was pulled free. Eliason said he did not know where her parents were. It was about 3:30 a.m. when Tony Miller, a Realtor and Montecito resident, heard the heavy rainfall. "About the same time, I look up into the sky and there was this bright red light," he said. That light, he learned later, was from a gas line that had erupted. Miller thought another massive fire had broken out, but he wasn't sure. He went outside, walked up a hill and began recording video. He later posted it on his Twitter account. At home, Miller watched the news as news video footage showed car-size boulders on neighborhood streets, homes knocked off their foundations, and debris and ash had made its way down from the burned hillsides and into the streets. "I don't think people were expecting to have all this mud and debris to come down the way it did," he said. "A lot of people were trapped in their home." But with most of the eastern side of Montecito without power or cellphone service, he's had a hard time reaching friends and relatives. Meanwhile, Miller said he's fortunate enough to have some power and has been keeping neighbors informed about the latest details of the storms and the devastation that has hit their community. "The same houses that had a hard time with the fire, just got hit even harder with he rain."
At least 13 people were killed Tuesday after a powerful winter storm drenching Southern California sent mud, rocks and debris plummeting down wildfire-scarred hillsides and into several neighborhoods, some of which house lavish celebrity homes. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown confirmed the deaths at a news conference Tuesday, in which he said the affected areas of the state 'looked like a World War I battlefield.' More people are believed to be dead, and at least 25 people were injured and others unaccounted for. Rescues have unfolded throughout the day in Montecito, an enclave that includes the mansions of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and several other celebrities. Mike Eliason, a public information officer with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said the heavy rains triggered "massive runoff." He tweeted, "Multiple rescues from vehicles and structures are underway. Access is difficult/delayed due to-at some locations-waist deep mudflow, trees, and wires down. Avoid the area." The Santa Barbara Fire Department told KEYT-TV at least three homes have been destroyed by a mud and debris slide in the area of Hot Springs Road. One man was also rescued from mud that was up to his neck, Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Dave Zaniboni told the news station. Greg Villeneuve, who is staying at the Montecito Inn in Santa Barbara while in the area on business, told Fox News on Tuesday the skies have cleared up but mangled cars, trees, and branches are littering the area. "I've been coming to Santa Barbara for 17 years and I've never seen anything like this," he said. Villeneuve said the 101 Freeway located near the hotel is flooded with several feet of water, and the National Guard has showed up in trucks to assist first responders. California Highway Patrol said the 101 closed Tuesday between Ventura and Santa Barbara for some 30 miles. Capt. Cindy Pontes said crews are working "feverishly" to clear the road, but it will take at least 48 hours, possibly longer, to reopen it. At one point early Tuesday, the entire freeway was inundated and the mud was 3 feet deep at the top of a rise, CHP said. Zaniboni told KEYT "multiple" homes were destroyed and residents were unaccounted for in neighborhoods below hillsides scarred by recent fires. The television station also showed a body being loaded into a military-style truck on a mud-covered street. Firefighters in Montecito were able to rescue a 14-year-old girl after she was trapped for hours inside a destroyed home. "I thought I was dead for a minute there," the girl could be heard saying on video posted by KNBC-TV before she was taken away on a stretcher. In Montecito, some residents told the Los Angeles Times they had shrugged off dire warnings about the rainstorm before waking up to the deluge. "I woke up ready this morning to laugh and scoff at all the gloom-and-doom predictions," Dominic Shiach told the newspaper. "It's actually way worse than I thought it was going to be." In another Twitter post, Eliason posted pictures of firefighters rescuing two men and a woman from flood waters on Hot Springs Road in Montecito. The National Weather Service in Los Angeles said at least five inches of rainfall fell in the town of Ojai in Ventura County. The region about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles is located in the burn area of the Thomas Fire, which scarred the land last month and was the largest in California history. A yearslong drought eased in the state last spring, but Northern California had a dry start to winter and hardly any measurable rain fell in the south over the past six months. The extremely dry conditions and high winds last year led to some of the most destructive blazes on both ends of the state. Montecito is beneath the scar left by a wildfire that erupted Dec. 4 and became the largest ever recorded in California. It spread over more than 440 square miles (1,140 square kilometers) and destroyed 1,063 homes and other structures. It continues to smolder deep in the wilderness.