STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

California mudslides: Evacuation zones expanded as searches continue

As teams frantically searched areas of Southern California smothered by rivers of mud and boulders, officials on Thur...

Posted: Jan 12, 2018 10:29 AM
Updated: Jan 12, 2018 10:29 AM

As teams frantically searched areas of Southern California smothered by rivers of mud and boulders, officials on Thursday increased the size of the evacuation zones.

The immediate areas where at least 17 people were killed by Monday's mudslides are under mandatory evacuation, Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown said.

At least 17 people killed in Santa Barbara County as crews search for missing

NEW: Victim says it only took minutes for first floor to be swamped with mud

"We know that this a terribly inconvenient development but it is also incredibly necessary," Brown said to residents.

The number of people missing in and around the oceanside community of Montecito was in flux Thursday. At an afternoon news conference Brown said as many as 43 people could be considered missing.

Authorities have not confirmed that many people are unaccounted for, he said, but are looking into reports from phone calls, social media and message boards.

"It doesn't mean that they (the 43 people) are all actively missing," he said.

Thursday morning the total was reported as 48 then revised to eight due to a "clerical error," according to the sheriff's office.

Brown said he still had hopes people would be found alive as the search moved into its third day.

"We certainly are searching for a miracle right now," he said.

How to help the victims of the California mudslides

Latest developments

- Victims list: Officials have released the names of the 17 people killed. The victims ranged from 3 years old to 89 years old.

- Deadly storm: All the deaths were reported in Santa Barbara County, authorities said. An additional 28 people were injured in the county.

- Destruction: At least 65 homes and 462 other residences were damages in Santa Barbara County, spokeswoman Susan Klein-Rothschild said Thursday. Eight commercial buildings were destroyed, and 20 were damaged.

- Search: Crews had completed a primary search of 75% of the debris field.

- Water: A boil water notice is in place for Montecito and Summerland.

- Weather conditions: No rain is forecast for the area over the next seven days. High temperatures are expected to be in the upper 60s to mid 70s from Thursday through the weekend.

- Road closed: Sections of US 101, a major thoroughfare connecting Northern and Southern California, are closed until Monday.

Race against time

Anxious residents have been awaiting word on their loved ones. On Thursday, Brown said the searches may take weeks.

"This entire area is a very active rescue and recovery and repair zone right now," he said in announcing the new mandatory evacuation boundaries.

He said the zone, which includes areas formerly under voluntary evacuation advisories, would be in effect for one week, but residents should plan for two.

Rescue workers are using helicopters and all-terrain vehicles in a search hampered by blocked roads and downed trees and power lines.

There were a "number of significant rescues," Brown said.

In Montecito, rescuers have been tearing through mounds of mud, furniture and fallen trees to search for those trapped.

Some received good news of disoriented loved ones rescued from the roof of their muddied, flooded home. But others were not so lucky.

Diane Brewer said her friend, Josie Gower, 69, died after she opened her door and was swept away by the mudslide.

"It was always a full life with Josie. Now, it's just a hole," she said.

Catholic school founder Roy Rohter, 84, and his wife, Theresa, were swept from their Montecito home. Rohter died, but his wife was rescued, said Michael Van Hecke, headmaster of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, which Rohter founded in 1994.

Rebecca Riskin, the founding partner of Montecito real estate company Riskin Partners, also died, the company said. Riskin began selling real estate in Los Angeles and moved to Montecito nearly three decades ago.

Her loss is "incredibly devastating to her friends, family and our community," the company said Wednesday.

Authorities have not released the names of the missing, but some of their relatives have confirmed their identities.

James and Alice Mitchell, an elderly couple from Montecito, are among those missing, their granddaughter, Sarah Weimer, said Wednesday.

Evacuation fatigue

Billy Grokenberger lived in a part of Montecito that was under a voluntary evacuation order. He and his parents put belongings in their three cars, in case they decided to leave before the storm. They didn't.

"We had thought about leaving, but we had just had the fires ... we didn't take it serious(ly) enough," he said.

On the morning of the storm he woke up to the sound of thunder and went downstairs. About 30 minutes later, he was watching 2 to 3 feet of water streaming down the street when he looked over to the sight of the neighbor's car blasting through a stone wall that surrounded the property.

"(In) four minutes the water was through our wall and in our house, almost to the second story," he said.

His neighbors' house and others were swept away, as were two of the Grokenbergers' cars. Their home cannot be saved.

"The house is destroyed, but you know, there's just so many others who are less fortunate. But we just feel lucky that we were able to get out and (are) alive," he said.

Workers hike to keep senior home running

With blockages making driving difficult, some are hiking or biking to work -- including staff at a Montecito retirement home, CNN affiliate KEYT reported.

With parts of US 101 closed, motorists moving up or down the coast must choose between time-consuming alternate routes. Some will drive inland to access Interstate 5.

Others are taking boats between Ventura and Santa Barbara to get around the closure.

Some companies were offering ferries about four times a day, carrying roughly 400 people daily, CNN affiliate KTLA reported.

Prius escapes

Burbank, just north of Los Angeles, also had problems with mudslides.

One resident of the town, whose escape in a Prius went viral after firefighters posted a video of it, told KTLA he didn't think he was going to make it.

Desionne Franklin told the station that his housemate told him about a mandatory evacuation. So he and he girlfriend dug out the driveway and he eased down the road at first.

"When I got halfway down the hill, I just felt this burst of water hit the back of the car," he told KTLA.

The Toyota hydroplaned the rest of the way down the hill, he said.

"I guess this is going to be it for me, right here," he said he thought, but the car got traction just in time to avoid a crash.

Geologist: Risk of mudflow remains for years

The storm hit hard between 3 and 6 a.m. Tuesday. The rain poured down on hillsides charred by recent wildfires, which burned vegetation that otherwise could make the terrain more resistant to mudslides.

The Thomas Fire -- the largest wildfire in California's recorded history -- has burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties since it began in early December. It's still burning.

Geologists and forecasters warned that intense rain could trigger deadly mudslides from the scorched areas.

And because of the fire, communities below the scarred terrain could remain at risk of mudflow for a few years, said Randall Jibson, a research geologist with the US Geological Survey.

Montecito may be at slightly less risk now, because this week's flooding already brought down vulnerable material.

"(But) no storm brings down everything that is susceptible. There's almost always more" that could come down, he said.

What can be done? Long term, one option would be more basins to slow down storm runoff and collect debris.

Short term, making the public ready to evacuate during heavy rains is key, he said.

Montecito and Carpinteria are especially vulnerable to mudslides because the steep terrain in some places goes from thousands of feet above sea level to sea level in "a matter of just a few miles," said Tom Fayram, a deputy public works director with Santa Barbara County.

The rain fell at more than 1.5 inches per hour at one point early Tuesday in parts of Southern California. About a half inch per hour is enough to start mudslides, said Robbie Monroe of the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Mudslides are not uncommon to the area. In January 2005, a landslide struck La Conchita in Ventura County, killing 10 people.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the latest number of missing in the mudslides. An earlier report of 48 missing was a "clerical error," according to Santa Barbara County officials.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 603760

Reported Deaths: 7605
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1247651771
Ramsey52437895
Dakota46772469
Anoka42693458
Washington27391290
Stearns22545224
St. Louis18120311
Scott17536134
Wright16400148
Olmsted13386102
Sherburne1199494
Carver1065848
Clay825492
Rice8186110
Blue Earth762343
Crow Wing681194
Kandiyohi667185
Chisago619152
Otter Tail585684
Benton582798
Goodhue483373
Douglas475381
Mower470733
Winona460851
Itasca458663
Isanti439564
McLeod429161
Morrison424361
Nobles407950
Beltrami406960
Steele397416
Polk388872
Becker386555
Lyon363853
Carlton352556
Freeborn346832
Pine335023
Nicollet330945
Mille Lacs311454
Brown307840
Le Sueur297125
Todd285632
Cass285532
Meeker263042
Waseca237823
Martin234932
Roseau210721
Wabasha20783
Hubbard196041
Dodge18773
Renville182346
Redwood176338
Houston174016
Cottonwood167124
Wadena162422
Fillmore157410
Faribault154319
Chippewa153838
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138637
Watonwan13589
Rock128719
Jackson122612
Pipestone116626
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11296
Murray107010
Swift106918
Koochiching94617
Stevens92411
Clearwater89016
Marshall88717
Wilkin83112
Lake82920
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5938
Lincoln5843
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48093
Red Lake4017
Traverse3755
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 370583

Reported Deaths: 6041
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58186638
Linn21181339
Scott20287246
Black Hawk16065312
Woodbury15227230
Johnson1460585
Dubuque13496211
Dallas1128499
Pottawattamie11214173
Story1070848
Warren583591
Clinton561393
Cerro Gordo553193
Sioux516974
Webster514494
Muscatine4875106
Marshall486376
Des Moines466970
Wapello4333122
Buena Vista426140
Jasper420872
Plymouth402981
Lee381756
Marion365976
Jones300857
Henry294137
Bremer287760
Carroll286752
Boone268334
Crawford267840
Benton258755
Washington256751
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232251
Jackson225242
Clay216527
Kossuth216166
Tama211671
Delaware210943
Winneshiek197735
Page194522
Buchanan193033
Cedar192023
Hardin187344
Fayette186443
Wright185940
Hamilton181751
Harrison179973
Clayton171057
Butler165935
Madison164519
Mills163324
Floyd163042
Cherokee159338
Lyon158841
Poweshiek156936
Allamakee152652
Hancock150134
Iowa149824
Winnebago144331
Cass139255
Calhoun138913
Grundy137133
Emmet135841
Jefferson133535
Shelby131537
Sac130720
Union129935
Louisa129749
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124517
Franklin123323
Guthrie123032
Humboldt119526
Palo Alto113623
Howard105022
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96432
Monroe96230
Unassigned9540
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola79016
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7598
Taylor66712
Fremont6269
Decatur6159
Ringgold56324
Van Buren56318
Wayne54423
Audubon52910
Adams3444
Rochester
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 74°
Mason City
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 66°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
68° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 68°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 70°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 70°
Rain chances return later on this week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Hayfield baseball team hopes to keep the win streak going

Image

CITY COUNCIL STUDY SESSION

Image

Mayo Health System

Image

Pools open - pool coverage

Image

Drought Impact on local wildlife

Image

Pine Island encourages reduced water use for residents

Image

Dog Walking Forecast

Image

Mayo Clinic Reaches Construction Milestone

Image

CITY POOLS REOPEN, NEW REGISTRATION PROCESS IN PLACE TO CURB OVERCROWDING

Image

CITY POOLS REOPEN, NEW REGISTRATION PROCESS IN PLACE TO CURB OVERCROWDING

Community Events