At least 13 people have lost their lives in Santa Barbara County and many more have lost their homes and cars as heavy rains brought mudslides and flooding to Southern California Tuesday. Vegetation which would normally hold the hillsides together was burned away in last month’s wild fires, leaving the area vulnerable.
Most of the deaths are believed to have occurred in the wealthy suburb of LA, Montecito, according to the Associated Press. Residents told the AP that the hillside began to destabilize in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
“There’s basically no way to get from Montecito to Santa Barbara,” Santa Barbara Independent reporter and Montecito resident Keith Hamm told the publication. Boulders, high water and downed power line poles are just a few of the roadblocks facing first responders. Then there’s the mud itself, which the Independent warns, looks shallow but is actually almost 6 feet deep in some places.
In addition to losing most of its plant life last month, the area also hasn’t seen heavy rain in months and the scorched earth was unable to hold together. It was a perfect recipe for mudslides, but still only 10-15 percent of residents under mandatory evacuation orders in Santa Barbara actually heeded those warnings. Residents who have experienced flooding in the past are advised to seek higher ground. There are mandatory evacuation areas in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
What a mess.