Heavy rain in Southern California has triggered mudslides and debris flow in parts of the state scarred by recent wildfires, leaving people trapped in homes and cars as highways were shut down in the dark early Tuesday morning.
At least 13 people are dead, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. Authorities continue rescue operations and expect the number of casualties to increase. County fire department spokesperson Mike Eliason told HuffPost at least three homes in Santa Barbara County have been completely destroyed.
Conditions prompted an emergency response beginning around 2:30 a.m. Pacific time. In Montecito, a wealthy area near Santa Barbara, mudslides cut a gas line, sparking a fire that spread to multiple homes. Responders have been “delayed” in some areas due to waist-deep mud, along with downed trees and wires, Eliason said. Helicopters are being used because of road conditions.
Among those rescued was a 14-year-old girl, who had been trapped for hours under rubble in Montecito. She was carried out on a stretcher.
Several highways around Santa Barbara County were closed early Tuesday, including stretches of U.S. 101. As daylight broke on the West Coast, a fuller picture of the damage became clear: mud, branches and large boulders clogging roads and crashing into homes. In another image, a mud-coated car appears tangled in a tree.
The extent of the damage has yet to be surveyed, and crews are working to clear roads.