California

20 dead in Montecito mudslides; number of missing down to 4

Mudflows devastate Montecito neighborhoods

Heavy rains triggered devastating mudslides in Montecito, California on Jan. 9. Authorities estimate that at least 15 people have died.
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Heavy rains triggered devastating mudslides in Montecito, California on Jan. 9. Authorities estimate that at least 15 people have died.

Update, 9:15 a.m.

As of Sunday morning, 20 people are now dead and four are considered missing, according to authorities. Click here for the latest updates for Sunday, Jan 14.

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Crews are working to clear roads, including Highway 101, and neighborhoods damaged in the Montecito, California, mudslides. This video shows cleanup work on Friday, January 12, 2018.

Original story:

The death toll from mudslides in southern Santa Barbara County rose yet again as Sheriff Bill Brown on Saturday said the body of 25-year-old Morgan Christine Corey — previously missing — was found, bringing the total number to 19.

Corey’s 12-year-old sister, Sawyer Corey, previously was found dead.

Brown said in a press conference that Corey’s body was found “in mud and debris east of Olive Mill Road,” at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Tuesday’s early morning mudslides and flash floods, intensified by damage done by the Thomas Fire, have claimed victims as young as 3 and as old as 89.

But there was some good news Saturday.

Delbert Weltzin, 62, was found alive and well by rescuers. Five people remain missing: Faviola Calderon, 28; John “Jack” Cantin, 17; John “Jack” Keating, 53; Lydia Sutthithepa, 2; and Pinit Sutthithepa, 30.

Brown urged anyone who has a missing person to report to call 805-681-5542.

“There is always hope,” Brown said, though he added that every hour that passes makes finding new survivors less likely.

While evacuation orders and warnings were lifted for some of the afflicted areas, Brown warned that many areas remain off-limits while emergency responders and vehicles are at work.

“It is not a safe or convenient place to be right now,” Brown said. “We know that this is terribly inconvenient and understand many of you were previously evacuated.”

Even as workers struggle with the storm’s destruction, Robert Lewin of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management said officials are looking ahead.

“We have got to get those basins cleaned as fast as we can,” Lewin said. “Because if we don’t get those basins cleaned out, then we’re not going to be prepared for the next storm.”

“The next storm will come,” he added, “we don’t know what it will be.”

Jim Shivers of Cal Trans said Highways 101 and 192 remain closed, but that his department is working “12-hour shifts, seven days a week” to get them reopened.

“The issue for us is the massive amount of water on the highway,” Shivers said.

Until the highways are clear, commuters looking to travel from the Central Coast must take either I-5, via Highways 46 or 166, a ferry service like Island Packers or Condor Express or an AmTrak train.

Finally, county officials warned that the ocean from Gaviota to Carpinteria is off-limits “due to bacterial levels that continue to exceed standards.”

While that restriction doesn’t apply to sandy beaches in the affected areas, members of the public are encouraged to avoid debris while on the beach.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7934, @andrewsheeler

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