Death toll climbs to 18 in massive Montecito mudslide

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown confirmed Friday afternoon that 18 people have been killed by the flooding and mudslides in Montecito.

Search and rescue officials located 87-year-old Joseph Francis Bleckel dead inside his residence on Friday. Bleckel was previously listed on the official missing persons list, Brown said.

There are currently five active missing persons cases, Brown said, though that number has continued to fluctuate throughout the week.

“It goes without saying how incredibly devastating this time is for their loved ones,” Brown said. “We want those families to know we are here to support them in any way we can.”

More than 1,200 personnel are currently assigned to the incident area, which covers 30 square miles, according to a Cal Fire spokesperson.

Highway 101 will remain closed indefinitely and more rain is expected to hit the Santa Barbara area next week, said CHP Capt. Cindy Pontes.

“We do understand that the closure of Highway 101 is causing great hardships for many, many people,” Pontes said. “Crews are working day and night to clear the road ways.”

Laura Camp, a spokesperson for the Montecito water district, said the boiled water notice is still in effect for the entire district.

Camp said water service throughout the district continues to be limited.

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