Fifteen dead, up to two dozen missing, after California mudslides

Casey Dawson
January 11, 2018

Mudslides and flooding covered Highway 101 in the area of Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria as a deadly winter storm crushed Santa Barbara County Tuesday morning, and the vital roadway will continue to be closed in both directions until at least Thursday night, Caltrans officials said.

The combination of the Thomas Fire and heavy rainfall caused massive mudslides and flooding that were strong enough to knock homes off foundations and push boulders into roadways.

Mandatory evacuations had been ordered in parts of Santa Barbara County, but it is believed only 10% to 15% of residents actually heeded the warning. The fatality figure could increase as at least two dozen people were considered still missing as search-and-rescue efforts continued.

Damaged homes, mud and debris near Randall Road.

The deadly mudslides that struck Southern California early Tuesday left the celebrities who live there reeling - and asking for prayers for others in their community. Looking for missing persons. And in the Sun Valley area crews were working to remove a Los Angeles Police Department patrol vehicle that became stuck in mud along a section of La Tuna Canyon Road south of the Foothill Freeway.

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"We're performing multiple rescues", Zaniboni said, adding that some of those brought to safety were buried in mud.

Lowe posted on Twitter that he was "preparing for whatever may come". The courtyard of the 90-year-old Montecito Inn, built by silent movie actor Charlie Chaplin, was filled with a thick crust of debris driven by the slides.

These before and after images show the extent of the damage in Montecito. This is the 101 freeway in my neighborhood right now.

Drivers should avoid non-essential travel and use I-5 as an alternate route, Caltrans said.

Southern California has only begun to recover from half a dozen major infernos, including the Thomas Fire, which became the state's largest wildfire in history while turning paradise into a "war zone" and raging through the holidays.

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