15 Dead, 20 Injured After Flooding, Mudslides Force Thousands to Evacuate Southern California

Aerial view of Montecito, Calif., where mud and debris covers roads, homes and everything in it’s path following heavy rains, Jan. 9, 2018.
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At least 15 people are dead and more than 20 are injured in California from weather-related incidents, Santa Barbara County officials said Wednesday. The southern part of the state has been drenched with severe rain just weeks after several fires tore through the area.

Flash flooding, debris flow and mudslides are punishing the communities hit hard by the Thomas and La Tuna fires, prompting “dozens and dozens” of rescues on the ground, a spokesperson from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department told ABC News.

Many more are feared to be dead and buried beneath the mud, a California fire crew who has conducted up to 70 rescues alone told ABC News Tuesday afternoon.

One of those killed was Roy Rohter, the founder of the St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, according to the Catholic school’s headmaster, Michael Van Hecke, the Associated Press reported. Rohter’s wife was injured by the mudslide.

Montecito alone saw heavy rainfall in a short amount of time. About a third of the rain that has fallen in the last 24 hours in Montecito fell in just 5 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.

Because hundreds of thousands of acres were charred in the fires, the influx of water has nowhere to go.

Some homes in Montecito’s affluent community have been ripped from their foundations as a result of the torrential conditions. Several dozen homes have been destroyed or damaged, officials said.

The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management said Tuesday night the city of Montecito would be without potable water, electricity and sanitation “for an extended period of time.”

Local fire officials reported rescuing several people in the area, including a mother and her daughter who were caked in mud. About two dozen people in Santa Barbara County are unaccounted for, officials said.

The Claffey family in Carpinteria was forced to evacuate its home last month. After moving back in, family members were told to evacuate again because of the rain.

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SOURCE: ABC News, Max Golembo, Matt Gutman and Daniel Peck