Southern California cannot catch a break, as fallout from half a dozen historically destructive wildfires continues with this week’s widespread flash flooding occurring in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Even worse, Santa Barbara County’s Montecito community has suffered mudslides forcing over 20,000 residents to evacuate (again). The area received several inches of heavy rain that could not be absorbed by recently burned areas, which has produced a lethal landscape. The Weather Channel now reports that the death toll has officially reached 15 people (including a baby buried under feet of mud), and that number is expected to grow.
CNN presents more grim statistics, including how rescuers are still searching for over two dozen missing people. The number, while startling, pales in comparison to the over 600 calls made to emergency services early Tuesday morning. The LA Times reveals many residents made the tragic mistake of not heeding evacuation warnings:
Many residents decided to stay. Some assumed the threat was overblown just weeks after the fire triggered similar calls to evacuate. But when the earth began to move, it was too late. The power of the debris flow destroyed everything in its path and there was no time to flee.
“It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere with huge boulders, rocks, downed trees, power lines, wrecked cars,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Tuesday.
Further complicating matters after people ignored urgent warnings, the Weather Channel reveals how the instantaneous mudflow was “like a dam breaking” that surrounded homes, waist deep. Many residents, if they were lucky, were able to make it to their roofs after hearing “deep rumbling” from higher ground that sent boulders tumbling down with the rising mud, which effortlessly swallowed vehicles and tore several houses from their foundations.
Updates for this disaster will no doubt continue, and parts of coastal U.S. Route 101 are expected to remain closed for another few days, if not longer.