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17 people reported missing, 17 confirmed dead in Montecito-area - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

17 people reported missing, 17 confirmed dead in Montecito-area mudslides

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UPDATE (4:05 p.m.) - Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Wednesday afternoon that the bodies of two more people were recovered from the mudslides in the Montecito area, bringing the death toll to 17. Seventeen more people are reported missing.

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital reports no new patients with storm-related injuries were seen Wednesday. Of the 20 at the hospital Tuesday, officials said eight have been discharged and four are in critical condition. The majority of their injuries are said to be from "fast-moving debris."

Three hundred people trapped in the Romero Canyon area were rescued Tuesday night. Several chose to stay in the area but were deemed safe.

A toll-free number - 1 (833) 688-5551 - has been set up for those needing information about missing persons. 

Brown said the west side of the mudslide has been 100 percent contained. 

Sections of Highway 101 are expected to remain closed until at least January 15. California Highway Patrol Commander Cindy Pontes said FEMA is currently assisting efforts on the highway.

General Manager of the Montecito Water District Nicholas Turner said there are several water main breaks in Montecito County and that many residents are without power.

Turner said those with water should conserve as much as possible, as there is no water in storage for the area. Residents can go to the Montecito Fire District and the Shopping center at East Valley and Santa Cedro for free water bottle distribution.


UPDATE (1:30 p.m.) - Authorities say 100 single-family homes were destroyed in the flash-floods early Tuesday morning. A county statement Wednesday says an additional 300 homes were damaged. Eight commercial properties were also destroyed and 20 were damaged.

The death toll remains at 15, with 24 people missing. Twenty-eight injuries have been reported.


UPDATE (8:45 a.m.) - Search and rescue teams are looking for two dozen people who are missing in Montecito. 

At a briefing Wednesday morning, crews were told the top priority is to find people who are currently unaccounted for. 

At last report, there have been 15 fatalities and 28 injuries. 

Teams on the ground are being assisted by 14 helicopters flying over the mud-ravaged landscape to look for survivors. 

Another primary concern Wednesday is rescuing the 300 people trapped in their Romero Canyon homes. 

Nearly 450 first responders have been called in from all over California to assist with recovery efforts in Montecito. 

SoCal Edison says 3,400 customers are without power in the Montecito area. 

Residents are told to prepare for extended power outages through at least Thursday. 

SoCal Edison cannot say when power will be restored. 

There has been no update from CalTrans and CHP on when Highway 101 will reopen. 


KSBY/AP - The death toll from the mudslides that struck southern Santa Barbara County climbed to 15 on Wednesday as rescue crews searched for anyone trapped, injured or dead in the onslaught that smashed homes and swept away cars.
    
The torrential rainstorm that set off the disaster cleared out and was no longer a hindrance as searchers made their way across a landscape strewn with boulders and covered in cement-like mud shoulder-high in some places.

Search and rescue efforts are underway to get to some 300 people still stranded in the Romero Canyon area of Montecito. 
    
"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.
    
He said that several dozen homes were destroyed or severely damaged, and that there are probably many more in similar condition in areas still inaccessible.
    
At least 15 people were confirmed dead, Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Yaneris Muniz said early Wednesday as the search continued through the night.
    
At least 25 people were injured, 50 or more had to be rescued by helicopters, and a half-dozen others were missing, authorities said. Four of the injured were reported in severely critical condition.
    
The search was set to expand with the arrival of a major search-and-rescue team from nearby Los Angeles County and help from the Coast Guard and the National Guard.
    
Most of the deaths occurred in and around Montecito, a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres.
    
Winfrey's home survived the mudslides. In an Instagram post on the same day many Democrats were talking about her for president because of her rousing speech at the Golden Globes, 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.
    
The mud was unleashed in the dead of night by flash flooding in the steep Santa Ynez Mountains, where hillsides were stripped of vegetation last month by the biggest wildfire on record in California, a 440-square-mile blaze that destroyed 1,063 homes and other structures.
    
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.
    
The torrent arrived suddenly and with a thunderous sound.
    
Thomas Tighe said he stepped outside his Montecito home in the middle of the night and heard "a deep rumbling, an ominous sound I knew was ... boulders moving as the mud was rising."
    
Two cars were missing from his driveway, and he watched two others slowly move sideways down the middle of the street in a river of mud.
    
In daylight, Tighe was shocked to see a body pinned by muck against his neighbor's home. He wasn't sure who it was.
    
Authorities had been bracing for the possibility of catastrophic flooding because of heavy rain in the forecast for the first time in 10 months. Evacuations were ordered beneath recently burned areas of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
    
But only an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people in a mandatory evacuation area of Santa Barbara County heeded the warning, authorities said.
    
U.S. Highway 101, the link connecting Ventura and Santa Barbara, looked like a muddy river and was expected to be closed for two days.
    
The worst of the rainfall occurred in a 15-minute span starting at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. Montecito got more than a half-inch in five minutes, while Carpinteria received nearly an inch in 15 minutes.
    
Hartmann watched rescuers revive a toddler pulled unresponsive from the muck.
    
"It was a freaky moment to see her just covered in mud," he said.
    
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Dalton reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers John Antczak, Michael Balsamo and Brian Melley in Los Angeles and Alina Hartounian in Phoenix contributed to this report.
    
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Follow Weber at https://twitter.com/WeberCM.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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