Some people will be allowed to return to their homes in mudslide-ravaged Montecito starting Tuesday, though others are still under mandatory evacuation orders as the massive cleanup effort continues.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said residents in about 750 parcels on the far western edge of the evacuation area, including Coast Village Road, will be allowed back in.
More areas below Highway 101 will be reopened Wednesday.
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“For many of you, we know it’s been almost two weeks since you’ve been able to go home,” he said during a press conference Monday afternoon. “We know that you want to get back home and we want to get you back home as quick as you can. But we have to do this systematically, we cannot allow everyone to go back in at the same time.”
Brown said repopulation depends on the safety of that area (including road closures), and whether utilities are available.
It will still be several days before the central area of Montecito is reopened, he said.
The Sheriff’s Office has established a specific unit to escort people back into their homes in the areas still under evacuation to retrieve necessary items, though Brown urged people to only contact this unit for emergency or extenuating circumstances.
Day of Remembrance
While the cleanup continues, Gov. Jerry Brown declared Monday a “Day of Remembrance” for the Montecito mudslides, calling them the “deadliest flooding event in California in recent memory.”
“As we remember those we lost in this disaster, we should also remember the injured, the missing and the survivors who may need our help in rebuilding their lives and spirits,” he wrote.
The death toll rose to 21 on Saturday when a dog team located the body of 28-year-old Faviola Benitez Calderon.
Two remain missing: 2-year-old Lydia Sutthithepa and 17-year-old John “Jack” Cantin.
Sheriff Brown on Monday said teams are still searching for the two, and efforts have redoubled to search areas that were previously inaccessible.
“We are not going to give up on this search at this point,” he said. “It’s very important for us to try to find them to bring some closure to these two families.”