July 20, 2018

Shifting numbers and definitions of 'missing' after mudslide

12 January 2018, 03:06 | Darnell Patrick

Shifting numbers and definitions of 'missing' after mudslide

The 2017 Thomas fire that burned in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties left behind vast swaths of charred landscape like this area in Upper Rincon Canyon

Kelly Weimer, whose parents were killed when their Montecito home was swept away by flash floods, said they "were in a voluntary evacuation area so they figured they were OK".

On Wednesday morning, 300 people were trapped in the Romero Canyon area of Montecito because debris was blocking their way out of the neighborhood, Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Yaneris Muniz said. "We have to find them". The number provided by county officials earlier in the day was eight missing. In Carpinteria, almost 1 inch fell in 15 minutes, the agency said.

"All hell broke loose", said resident Peter Hartmann. "You hear the word mudslides and you have no idea the impact that it has". The large aluminum poles to hold those were snapped in half. "I was in a mud flow yesterday, and it went from a wash channel being 6 inches of water to being 10 feet of water full of boulders".

Forty-three people were missing, but many or majority may simply have been unreachable to the family and friends who reported they couldn't find them, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

Many residents probably couldn't grasp the scope of how risky mudslides can become, McNary told PBS NewsHour.

Sheriff Bill Brown said the primary focus of first responders was "to evacuate those who are trapped and need help getting out". Officials in Texas were criticised when they chose not to mandate evacuations as Hurricane Harvey barrelled through Houston, yet the same city suffered awful gridlock during efforts to evacuate from Hurricane Rita in 2005. But the area where homes were destroyed, south of Highway 192, was not in a mandatory evacuation zone.

"We are still very much in active search-and-rescue mode", Chris Elms, a spokesman for state firefighters, said in a phone interview.

The department posted graphic pictures of homes submerged in mud and roads rendered impassable by fallen trees.

The road is closed from Milpas Street in Santa Barbara at the north end to the junction with State Route 126 in Ventura. One such piece of equipment grabbed a piece of a auto.

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If so, it was a false sense of security he said, as a torrent of boulders and debris came roaring down a rain-saturated hillside near his house in the coastal community of Montecito on Tuesday.

"They're an adorable couple, and they were in love with their house".

The rain fell at more than 1.5 inches per hour at one point early Tuesday in parts of Southern California. The U.S. Coast Guard said they used helicopters Tuesday to rescue people from rooftops.

After a wildfire, burned vegetation and charred soil create a water repellent layer which blocks water absorption. It's 92% contained, and officials don't expect full containment until later this month.

"The past 48 hours has (sic) been incredibly devastating for my hometown of Santa Barbara & Montecito with insane mudslides wiping out homes and taking over 15 people's lives with 25 still missing", she wrote.

"That's definitely at play here". "So there used to be a fence right here", she said while pointing out at a certain spot.

The Ventura County Air Unit also posted videos of their rescues, showing teams rescuing stranded individuals from the deadly mudslides.

The number of fatalities surpassed the death toll from a California mudslide on January 10, 2005, when 10 people were killed as a hillside gave way in the town of La Conchita, less than 20 miles (30 km) south of the latest disaster.

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