emfizz.com January 19, 2018

Death toll from California mudslide rises to 17

12 January 2018, 03:09 | Terri Saunders

Oprah, Rob Lowe among celebrities affected by deadly mudslides in California

Storms brought rain to California on Monday and increased the risk of mudslides in fire-ravaged communities in devastated northern wine country and authorities to order evacuations farther south for towns below hillsides burned by the state's largest

Red Cross officials said about 30 people stayed on cots at the shelter in Santa Barbara on Wednesday night and there was plenty of space remaining for Thursday evening as needed.

Muck-spattered searchers from around the state slogged through knee-deep ooze, poking long poles into the mud to probe for victims.

Flooding near La Conchita has prompted the closure of parts of US Route 101 in Ventura County, the sheriff's office there said Tuesday morning.

"We still need to find out if there's any remains or any life potential that's left in there", Los Angeles County Fire Battalion Chief Anthony Buzzerio said.

"That's a fear. We are still very hopeful that we will locate people alive", he added.

As anxious residents await word on their loved ones, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the priority is on finding survivors.

Homeowners and first responders were searching for at least two dozen people who were unaccounted for as of Tuesday afternoon.

The number of people missing after the deadly mudslides in Montecito, California, stands at 8.

"Most injuries we saw were related to fast-moving debris", Wilson said.

Even just a small misstep can be fatal.

The death toll in weather-related incidents in Santa Barbara County has risen to 15 early Wednesday, after a storm led to risky mudflows in the Thomas Fire burn area. Eight commercial properties were destroyed and 20 damaged. As search dogs clambered on heaps of wood that used to be homes, mud-spattered rescue teams from all over California worked their way through the ruins of Montecito, an enclave of 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey.

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Farther south in Los Angeles, crews managed to clear much of the debris from La Tuna Canyon Road, though 23 residences from the 8300 block to the 8800 block were still under evacuation to allow that work to continue.

"Helicopters rescuing my neighbours. We all are families, we have kids, and if that was dictated to us we would have followed the rules".

"It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere, with huge boulders, rocks, (downed) trees, power lines, wrecked cars - lots of obstacles and challenges for rescue personnel to get to homes", Brown said.

Voluntary evacuation orders were issued in some neighborhoods where mudflows buried homes and killed people. "(It) surrounded the house, 2 to 3 feet", he said. "That's their forever home", Weimer said.

The wildfires were the biggest in California's history, which along with a drought that lasted several years until these rains, is ensuring a chain of catastrophic environmental events feed into each other, worsening the effects.

Diane Brewer said her friend, Josie Gower, 69, died after she opened her door and was swept away by the mudslide.

Damaged homes, mud and debris near Randall Road. "I was frozen yesterday morning thinking, 'This is a million times worse than that fire ever was"'.

Although mandatory evacuations were put into force in some parts of Santa Barbara, only 10% to 15% of residents actually heeded the warnings to flee their homes.

Marco Farrell, a real estate agent, cited "evacuation fatigue" as his reason not to leave - a decision he wouldn't make next time.

One video, shows the Coast Guard saving a family of five after their home was as overtaken by a mudslide, in Santa Barbara County.

"I ran as fast I could and yelled, "Flash flood!' as I passed neighbors" homes", he said.

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