Number of missing people drops to 5 in Montecito; evacuations still in place

Update Friday, 8 a.m.

The number of missing people has dropped to 5, according to a morning incident update. Officials said that number will continue to “fluctuate significantly,” as the Sheriff’s Office investigates each report.

“Many reports reach a rapid and successful conclusion, other(s) require additional investigation,” the report said.

Mandatory evacuations are still in place.

Update, 4:30 p.m.:

The mandatory evacuation area is expanding in the Montecito area at 6 p.m. Thursday, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

Mandatory evacuations will now include the “public safety exclusion area” (black zone on map) that has been in effect since Tuesday night. More information can be found HERE and in the map below:

“If you’re in an adjacent area, you should considering leaving, too,” Brown warned. “It’s important that we give our crews access to these areas without interference.”

Brown suggests that residents should be prepared to be evacuated for at least a week, but maybe for as long as two weeks.

Rough boundaries for the evacuation zone are: Pacific Ocean to the south, Hot Springs Road to the west, Ortega Ridge down to East Valley Road to the east, and just south of the U.S. Forest Service boundary to the north.

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A total of 27 patients have been treated and released or admitted from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with storm-related injuries, according to hospital spokesperson Maria Zate.

As of Thursday afternoon, 14 patients remain in the hospital. Of the four patients who were classified as critical on Tuesday, Zate said, two have improved to serious condition and the other two remain in critical condition.

Update, 4 p.m.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said during an afternoon news conference Thursday on the Montecito mudslides and floods that “there are 43 people we’re are now looking into and investigating to see if they actually are missing.”

Brown emphasized that the number of people reported missing continues to fluctuate.

“This is a constantly changing list,” Brown said.

The mudslide and flooding incident area covers 30 square miles, and 1,569 personnel are assigned to the incident. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been arriving with more than 100 vehicles to assist with operations, starting Thursday.

“We know that our community and people from across the world are also heart broken for these families,” Brown said.

Brown also said rescues in the area continued Thursday.

“We have had a number of significant rescues, and number of significant rescues today,” he said.

Highway 101 will remain closed in the area until Monday, CHP Capt. Cindy Pontes reiterated.

She asked that people stay out of the area to give officials room for cleanup.

As well, water service continues to be impacted after the floods, and the county health department is warning that “all ocean waters should be considered as contaminated until further notice.” County beaches are closed.

Update, 2:45 p.m.

As of Thursday, the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office had received 17 bodies related to the floods and mudslides early Tuesday morning. All of those who died were from Montecito, according to a news release from the county. Next of kin for all 17 have been notified.

Cause of death of all 17 victims is being listed as “multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides due to recent wildfire,” according to the release.

The names and ages of the victims are:

Jonathan Benitez: 10 years old

Kailly Benitez: 3 years old

Martin Cabrera-Munoz: 48 years old

David Cantin: 49 years old

Sawyer Corey: 12 years old

Peter Fleurat: 73 years old

Josephine Gower: 69 years old

John McManigal: 61 years old

Alice Mitchell: 78 years old

James Mitchell: 89 years old

Mark Montgomery: 54 years old

Caroline Montgomery: 22 years old

Marilyn Ramos: 27 years old

Rebecca Riskin: 61 years old

Roy Rohter: 84 years old

Peerawat Sutthithepn: 6 years old

Richard Taylor: 67 years old

Original story:

Eight people are still missing Thursday — a decrease from the 17 that were missing Wednesday after a winter storm pummeled Montecito, causing devastating mud and debris to sweep through the area.

Initially, the morning incident update stated there were 48 people missing, but officials have corrected the number to eight.

Seventeen people have died, and another 28 are injured.

Sixty-five single-family residences were destroyed, and 446 were damaged, fire officials said in a morning update. Another 1,500 remain threatened. Eight commercial properties were destroyed, with 20 damaged and 200 threatened.

Highway 101 is expected to be closed through at least midday Monday, while crews work to clear mud and debris from the road.

Almost 700 personnel are responding to the disaster.

Kayla Missman: 805-781-7965

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