Search Continues for Missing After Mudslides in California

U.S. Highway 101 at the Olive Mill Road overpass is flooded with runoff water from Montecito Creek in Montecito

U.S. Highway 101 at the Olive Mill Road overpass is flooded with runoff water from Montecito Creek in Montecito

The disaster was already unfolding when Santa Barbara County officials sent out their first cellphone alert at 3:50 a.m. County emergency manager Jeff Gater said officials decided not to send one sooner out of concern it might not be taken seriously.

The drenching rains that unleashed the deadly torrents managed to finally contain the largest wildfire in state history, which burned for weeks above Montecito and stripped the steep hills of vegetation, making it prone to mudslides.

On Friday, the estimated number of missing people was down to five, after an estimate of 43 on Thursday. A huge police presence keeps out both residents and looters. He says they lived in a voluntary evacuation zone, so they made a decision to ride out Tuesday's storm.

More: 30 square miles. After a better damage assessment earlier in the week, a total of 64 homes were destroyed, while 300 to 462 were damaged.

Evacuee Hannah Troy has spent three days at the Red Cross shelter in nearby Santa Barbara.

The family rode out the storm on kitchen counters as the debris smashed through the walls and exposed the lower level of the two-story house and one of the upstairs bedrooms.

"My sister was such a good person, she only thought of others to the point that she would cry with you when you were hurt or sick", said Ramos' sister, Jennifer Ramos.

"I am blessed and I am going to do whatever I can for the rest of the community", Winfrey said, "and we all just love the firefighters". She had lived in the city for almost 30 years. Officials say a clerical mistake led to the figure of eight being released. "It just exhausts the crews out there", Sacramento Fire Department Captain Pat Costamagna said. "You have to start accepting the reality of that".

Of the 18 confirmed victims, the oldest was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before the mudslide.

Almost 450 first responders and government officials and 14 rescue choppers flooded into the area to help bring order to the chaos.


Rebecca Riskin, the 61-year-old founder of a real estate firm, was also killed in Montecito, according to the company and local news media. None of the adult dead shared their last names. Aerial footage over Montecito showed a contrast of widespread damage next to homes completely untouched by the disaster.

A luxury sports vehicle is covered in mud and debris caused by a massive mudflow in Montecito, California, January 10, 2018.

Firefighters and other emergency officials have been walking the affected neighborhoods, searching for survivors who may be trapped in mud-filled homes. Like many, the couple described hearing explosions during the slide as gas lines ruptured and exploded.

More than 29,000 people are under the evacuation orders which could last for at least a week. They've got power back, limited cell phone service and food for their six dogs and 20 chickens.

"The Ellen DeGeneres Show" hit a somber note on Thursday's episode, as the talk show host opened up about the devastating mudslides that have ravaged her Montecito community this week.

Phillip Harnsberger crosses through mud from a flooded creek on Sheffield Drive in Montecito, Calif.

"Had we not gone over there, I don't think that kid would have [survived]", he added. At least two unrecognizably mangled cars were carried like driftwood all the way to the beach, where they were partly covered in seaweed. "What would we have done with the animals?"

"So again, we evacuated because they feared mudslides".

"We'll just be here", Abbe Shaw said as she walked back to their house. "Until that window is closed completely, we're doing every search like it's the first time the area's been searched".

Interjected her husband with a smile: "And if it gets bad, we've got all those chickens".

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