At least 17 people have died and hundreds of homes have been damaged after torrential rains created mudslides in several Southern California communities that scrambled to escape wildfires just a few months ago, ABC News reports.
Rescue workers are using search and rescue dogs to help wade through the mud and rocks - which is sometimes thigh-deep or higher - to search homes and cars.
Mandatory evacuation orders were expanded Thursday evening to Montecito areas below Highway 192/Foothill road, a move Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said is meant to increase access for rescue and fix crews working in the area. Santa Barbara has the closest trauma center to the scene of the disaster. and a lot of nurses that work there just simply couldn't get to work.
UPDATE (11:30 a.m.) - Santa Barbara County said that So Cal Gas will be releasing natural gas at Coyote Road and East Mountain Drive in Montecito anytime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Crews are working to fix ruptured gas lines.
O'Dea's Montecito house outside Santa Barbara was in the path of a pre-dawn flash flood Tuesday that was touched off by heavy rain.
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A search and rescue team make their way up a mud covered hillside in Montecito on January 12, 2018.
Helen Murdoch, a resident of Santa Barbara, described the damage done by the mudslides this way: "I would say it's apocalyptic".
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown on Thursday expanded what was known as the public safety exclusion zone to incorporate most of the town.
As their names and those of 14 other victims were released Thursday, crews kept digging through the muck and rubble looking for more people.
Excavators carrying rescuers in their buckets ploughed through mud-coated roads in search of the missing after some areas were buried in as much as 4.6m of mud.
"It is heavy. It's wet".
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Officials ordered residents in most of the south-east corner of Montecito, which is east of Santa Barbara, to leave their homes for what was likely to be one or two weeks.
In one of the hardest hit areas, the affluent seaside community of Montecito, the devastation wrought by the slide and the gruesome undertaking faced by emergency crews was evident.
Downed power lines wrapped around trees at one property, while elsewhere the lines dropped nearly to the ground.
The area, northwest of Los Angeles, is home to many celebrities and other wealthy Californians who relish the seclusion and relative proximity to the city.
On Friday, the estimated number of missing people was down to five, after an estimate of 43 on Thursday.
Montecito residents begin to decide whether to evacuate or stay in place with possibility of losing all power, water and gas.
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