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Road to Recovery: Crews Clear Mud, Debris From 101 Freeway

Road to Recovery: Crews Clear Mud, Debris From 101 Freeway

The Santa Barbara County sheriff now says 43 people are still unaccounted for.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew from San Diego helped rescue a family of five and two dogs from the roof of a home in the mudslide's path in Montecito.

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.

Before the storm hit, Santa Barbara issued mandatory evacuations for 7,000 people, including in parts of Carpinteria, Montecito and Goleta, which are below areas scorched by wildfires, county spokeswoman Gina DePinto said.

Most fatalities are believed to have occurred in Montecito, a wealthy town about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles that is home to celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Rob Lowe.

In some neighborhoods still bearing the scars of the Thomas Fire, houses were completely destroyed while others nearby were untouched.

"All hell broke loose", said Peter Hartmann, a dentist who moonlights as a news photographer for the local website Noozhawk.

At least 17 people have been killed in the mudslides and authorities are fearing that number could rise as responders search for more victims.

Aerial view of Montecito, Calif., where mud and debris covers roads, homes and everything in it's path following heavy rains, January 9, 2018.




He said of his own home in the community of Montecito: "This was an hour of rain, and the house was gone".

Oprah Winfrey's home sustained minor damage after a major mudslide hit southern California.

Dozens of boulders sat atop muddied tree branches where at least three homes once stood on a Montecito street as rescuers continued to search for the missing.

The emergency services declared an exclusion zone, saying anyone moving around the area would be in the way of rescuers and would be subject to arrest.

Highway 101 has been shut down in both directions because of the mud, Santa Barbara County officials announced Tuesday afternoon.

The only remnants of the homes on Olive Mill Road were the faint traces of their foundation and the neighbors that knew of them.

"This room is always so full of positivity and love and today I really need it", DeGeneres told her audience.

With heavy rain forecast, authorities had ordered evacuations beneath the burned areas of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, but only 10 to 15 percent of residents heeded the orders, according to the Santa Barbara police department.

"While some residents cooperated, many did not".


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