Deadly, Destructive Flooding in SoCal
MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) — A storm that slammed a California coastal community is over. The search for its victims is not.
Authorities in Santa Barbara County were still trying to reach new areas and dig into the destruction to find dead, injured or trapped people after a powerful mud flow swept away dozens of homes.
At least 13 people were confirmed dead Tuesday, at least 25 were injured and at least 50 had to be rescued by helicopters.
Those numbers could increase when the search is deepened and expanded Wednesday, with a major search-and-rescue team arriving from nearby Los Angeles County and help from the Coast Guard and National Guard along with law enforcement.
They’ll focus first on finding survivors.
“Right now our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.
The sheriff said, “at least several dozen homes that have been either destroyed or severely damaged, and likely many other ones are in areas that are as-yet inaccessible.”
He said it’s likely they’ll find more people amid that destruction.
The search for the missing — whose numbers are uncertain — will continue through the night and then intensify after daylight Wednesday, authorities said.
Most deaths were believed to have occurred in Montecito, said Santa Barbara County spokesman David Villalobos.
The wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe, and Ellen DeGeneres,
Winfrey’s home survived the storm and slides. In an Instagram post, she shared photos of the deep mud in her backyard and video of rescue helicopters hovering over her house.
“What a day!” Winfrey said. “Praying for our community again in Santa Barbara.”
A mud-caked 14-year-old girl was among the dozens rescued on the ground Tuesday. She was pulled from a collapsed Montecito home where she had been trapped for hours.
“I thought I was dead for a minute there,” the dazed girl could be heard saying on video posted by KNBC-TV before she was taken away on a stretcher.
Twenty people were hospitalized and four were described as “severely critical” by Dr. Brett Wilson of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
The mud was unleashed in the dead of night by flash flooding in the steep, fire-scarred Santa Ynez Mountains. Burned-over zones are especially susceptible to destructive mudslides because scorched earth doesn’t absorb water well and the land is easily eroded when there are no shrubs.