Montecito Mudslides Kill 17; More than A Dozen Still Missing

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The death toll stands at seventeen as first-responders in this Southern California coastal town continue to search for the sixteen still missing after Tuesday’s massive thunderstorm brought earth, debris, trees, and boulders, rushing down the mountain.

The storm, that at its peak dumped nearly one-half inch of rain every five minutes, sent torrents of fast moving mud bearing down on the Montecito residents, who did not receive the emergency evacuation order until the early morning hours of the second day of severe rains, had been asked to voluntary evacuate.

The massive wildfires that swept through Ventura Country in December left a barren charred landscape unable to absorb the harsh two day rainstorm.


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After facing down the engulfing Thomas fire, many residents decided to stay in their homes not expecting the much needed rains would produce a life threatening mudslide that overtook vehicles, gathering car sized boulders, snapping trees, barreling through anything in its path and burying homes.

Nearly three foot of caked mud surrounded some of the 100 multi-million dollar homes completely destroyed. Oprah Winfrey, who returned to her home after her triumphant Golden Globe speech found her estate covered in nearly 18inches of sludge, debris and mud.

Residents have described hearing a roar and feeling the earth tremble and instinctively knew the rains had loosened the boulders and had only seconds to seek shelter. The impossibility of finding anyplace to escape the tons of mud bearing down on the town became quickly evident.


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Working on a round the clock search and rescue mission, first responders using cadaver dogs found a teenager who was engulfed as the mud snapped her home apart and swallowed her. Working six hours and using the jaws of life, rescuers were able to free her. Other members of her household also home when the mudslides occurred are still missing.

Image Coutesy of the Weather Channel

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