Death toll in California mudslides rises to 17

Joann Johnston
January 13, 2018

Authorities in Santa Barbara County warned that the death toll could rise, as more people are feared trapped beneath the mud.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew from San Diego helped rescue a family of five and two dogs from the roof of a home in the mudslide's path in Montecito.

"We do understand that the closure of Highway 101 is causing great hardships for many, many people", Pontes said.

Councilman Gregg Hart said the recent Thomas Fire and the mudslides have severely tested the community, but that knows the region is in good hands with the array of rescue workers and sophisticated mutual-aid program. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, when interviewed by CNN, described the aftermath of the flood as "a World War I battlefield".

Montecito, one of the areas hardest hit by the mudslides, is a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people - and home to celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres.

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"There was cars washing down, power lines washing down, huge boulders, huge trees coming down", she said. The mudslides destroyed about 100 homes and injured 28 people.

Numerous locations hardest hit by the torrents had previously been devastated by the worst wildfire in California history, increasing worries about the possibility of mudslides in the freshly burned areas. Officials said numerous deaths are believed to be in the coastal Montecito area, where mudflows and floodwater have inundated areas downstream from where the Thomas Fire burned thousands of acres last month. Woke up to this blazing gas fire. then swipe left to see how deep the mud is in my backyard.

The December wildfires not only scorched away grass, shrubs and other vegetation that hold soil in place, but they also baked a waxy layer into the Earth that prevented the rains from being absorbed into the ground, Reuters explained.

Evacuation orders have been issued for communities below the burned out Santa Ynez Mountains.

The National Weather Service told the publication: "Recent burn areas will be especially vulnerable where unsafe mud and debris flows are possible".

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