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. Now that some “winter weather,” including some much needed rain, has finally arrived, a new threat is plaguing the same areas torched by flames only weeks ago. Flash flooding and dangerous mudslides have swiftly become dangers, and residents are once again being forced to evacuate from their communities.
Fox News reports that mandatory evacuation orders are in effect for over 21,000 residents, and CNN adds that mudflow has already “wiped away” three homes near Montecito in Santa Barbara County with rescues ongoing from surrounding structures and vehicles that now sit in precarious positions. A Montecito resident named Ben Hyatt told CNN how Tuesday morning turned disastrous when a “river of mud” hit a neighbor’s home:
“Apparently one of their cars ended in their back yard. We have neighbors at (the) top of street that evacuated to their roof,” Hyatt said. His own house was “surrounded by mud,” and a washing machine had drifted into his front yard, he said.
Hyatt said he was awake when power went out during heavy rain around 2:30 a.m. local time. Eventually he heard a loud swish and banging on the exterior of his house. “Mud came in an instant, like a dam breaking. (It) surrounded the house, 2 to 3 feet,” he said.
Authorities have closed portions of coastal U.S. Route 101 due to the ongoing threat, which could last indefinitely, given the lack of vegetation on hills that’s preventing soil from soaking up water. And with some areas of Southern California receiving multiple inches of the wet stuff in a short amount of time, treacherous conditions prevail. On Twitter, Santa Barbara County Public Information Officer Mike Eliason has further warned people to avoid Montecito.
The LA Times reports that worsening rains will keep flash flood watches in effect through Tuesday for several communities, and possible thunderstorms with “damaging” gusts of wind could push downed power lines and trees into the mix. Exhausted residents of the area are hoping for relief from these ongoing disasters — let’s hope they catch a break soon.