17 dead, Highway 101 shut down as flooding, mudslides hit Montecito

Updated, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10:

The death toll in the mudslides and flooding has risen to 17, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

The Sheriff’s Office is not yet releasing the names of victims. About 17 people remain missing, authorities said.

Follow new updates to this developing story here: Death toll rises to 17 in massive Montecito mudslide; crews continue search for the missing

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Original story from Tuesday, Jan. 9:

Update, 2 p.m.

The death toll has risen to eight, according to the Los Angeles Times. Please follow continuous updates on this developing story here: Death toll rises to 8 as storm slams Montecito with flooding, mudslides.

Update, 10:50 a.m.

A flash flood advisory is in place for southern Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties until 1:30 p.m., with heavy showers forecast in the area, according to the National Weather Service. Santa Barbara County said in a tweet that everyone should leave debris flow areas now and go to higher ground, as more flash flooding is possible.

Update, 10:30 a.m.

At least five people have now been confirmed dead.

Update, 10 a.m.

A third person has been confirmed dead. The body was found at the Highway 101 offramp at Channel Drive.

Highway 101 is shut down from Highway 126 in Ventura to Milpas Street in Santa Barbara until further notice, Caltrans said. Crews are on site and working to reopen the highway.

Update, 8:40 a.m.

Two people have been confirmed dead in the flood.

Original story:

Major mud flows and flooding were reported in Montecito and Carpinteria early Tuesday as a powerful winter storm dropped heavy rain on the Thomas Fire burn area.

Virtually all major roads leading into Montecito were reported to be impassable, with heavy flows of water, mud and debris on the roadways.

Three homes were destroyed on the 300 block of Hot Springs Road, according to Mike Eliason, a spokesman with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

San Ysidro Road, Olive Mill Road and other streets were reported to be completely impassible due to flooding, and mud flows were reported on East Valley Road.

Emergency radio traffic also indicated numerous reports of people trapped inside structures and unable to evacuate, and 911 lines were being overwhelmed.

Several rescued were underway on Olive Mill Road, according to emergency radio traffic.

Highway 101 was reported shut down in both directions in Montecito, while northbound 101 was closed near Ventura due to flooding north of La Conchita.

Highway 150 was closed near Lake Casitas and State Route 33 was closed due to flooding, mud, debris flows and downed wires, according to Caltrans.

Santa Barbara County advised everyone to shelter in place or go to high ground, but stay off the roads, if they are still within mandatory or voluntary evacuation areas.

“Take protective actions to stay safe which may include sheltering-in-place or seeking high ground, avoiding power lines and trees, staying off roads and highways, and do not attempt to leave and drive across flowing water or mud,” the county said in an advisory message sent out around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

There was a report of a large natural gas fire in the area of El Bosque Road, but details were not available.

There also was a report of a natural gas explosion and structure fire on Via Manana.

A Coast Guard helicopter was called in to evacuate two patients — reportedly suffering severe burns — from Birnam Wood Country Club.

All Saints by the Sea Church was being used as a triage center for people with injuries due to the inability of ambulances to access other areas.

Creeks in the Carpinteria area were reported to be flowing across the freeway.

Emergency personnel were having great difficulty responding to calls due to the flooding and mud.

Southern California Edison reportedly turned off power to most of the Montecito area early Tuesday, since downed power lines were hampering emergency response.

Smaller weather-related outages were also reported in Summerland and Carpinteria areas, according to the Edison Outage Map.

Flash Flood Warnings were issued early Tuesday for areas around the Thomas, Whittier and Alamo burn scars.

Such warnings mean flooding is imminent or is occurring, and anyone in the area is urged to get to higher ground.

Shortly before 3 a.m., doppler radar was showing heavy rain falling across the burn areas from the three fires, according to the National Weather Service.

Automated rain gauges were showing rainfall rates of between a half inch and an inch per hour.

In the three hours ending at 5:30 a.m., Montecito had received 1.3 inches of rain, while Carpinteria had 1.76 inches.

The warning for the Thomas and Whittier fires was in effect until 5:30 a.m., while the Alamo warning was in effect until 7 a.m.

The areas previously had been under Flash Flood Watches.

Residents are encouraged to sign up for alerts from the Aware & Prepare program, and to heed all evacuation orders and warnings.

Click here for Santa Barbara County’s interactive map of possible flooding areas. is a Santa Barbara-based news website. Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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