Mudslides triggered by heavy rains in the Southern California area have claimed the lives of five individuals and resulted in at least a dozen more being injured. This all in an area still reeling from the lasting effects of devastating wildfires that ravished the area. To make matters worse, the loss of vegetation due to the wildfires makes the area more vulnerable to mudslides.
In one upscale Santa Barbara community, at least five homes were swept away overnight according to Mike Eliason, spokesperson for the County Fire Department of Santa Barbara.
Eliason also reports that casualty numbers may rise once emergency crews are able to access areas that are presently blocked to them because of mud an debris. These crews were able to effectively rescue scores of individuals who had been trapped in homes and trees late Monday and night and early Tuesday Morning.
The precipitation from an unusually strong winter storm was at first welcomed by a Southern California region that had not seen substantial rain for months. The rainfall became excessive to the point of danger however as some areas experienced as 4 inches of rain.
The most affected area seems to be the Montecito community in Santa Barbara. The affluent neighborhood is home to many celebrities including media icon Oprah Winfrey. Local media reports stated that at least three persons are missing off Hot Spring Road after three homes were homes destroyed and a number of cars buried by mudslides.
The National weather service made reports of several roads and highways being closed due to the storm.
Hundreds of area residents heeded mandatory evacuation orders issued in areas that had been affected by the Thomas Fire but on Tuesday rescue personnel were forced to use helicopters to evacuate others that had remained in their homes and were subsequently trapped.
A report by one a ham radio operator on Twitter stated that rescue officials were seeking to rescue a woman with broken ribs whose husband had already been washed away in the mudslide. The radio operator also reported that a pregnant woman and two small children were awaiting rescue on the countertops as the water continued to rise in their homes.