Death toll now at 13 in Santa Barbara County flooding

EMBED </>More Videos

Deadly mudslides triggered by heavy rain were inundating homes in Santa Barbara County Tuesday. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

At least 13 people have died in weather-related incidents in Santa Barbara County, authorities said Tuesday, as the Southland's first major winter storm triggered flooding and mudflows that forced the closure of the 101 Freeway in the Thomas Fire burn area.

Five of the fatalities occurred in and around Montecito, according to a county sheriff's spokesperson. Santa Barbara County Fire Department officials confirmed three more fatalities in the early afternoon, bringing the total up to eight.

Details of the circumstances were not immediately disclosed. In addition to the fatalities, 25 people were reported to be injured.

Powerful mudslides destroyed homes in the area as rescue crews rushed to search the rubble. The mud was reported to be 5 feet deep in places.

Firefighters slogged through waist-high mud to pull a muck-covered 14-year-old girl out of the ruins of a home in Montecito, where she had been trapped for hours. She was taken away on a stretcher.

VIDEO: Firefighters rescue girl trapped in Montecito home amid powerful mudslide
EMBED More News Videos

Crews rescued a girl trapped in rubble from a Montecito home amid a powerful mudslide that wiped away multiple residences and shut down roads in the area.

Santa Barbara County firefighters had dogs picking through the muddy remains of homes, looking for any others who may have been trapped.

Fire officials said there have been 50 air-hoist rescues, and dozens upon dozens of ground rescues.

Forecasters said the maximum rainfall occurred in a 15-minute span starting at 3:30 a.m. near the Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria areas of Santa Barbara County. Montecito got more than a half-inch in five minutes, while Carpinteria received 0.86 inches in 15 minutes.

Mud and debris littered roadways and blocked the main line of the Union Pacific Railroad through Montecito.

The California Highway Patrol shut down the northbound 101 at Route 126 in Ventura, and the southbound 101 was closed just south of Santa Barbara.

The closure was due to flooding, debris flows and an explosion apparently caused by a ruptured gas line, according to authorities.

Motorists were urged to avoid the area and use the 5 Freeway as an alternative route.

Residents in the area of Carpinteria faced the continued threat of dangerous mudslides after their properties were inundated by mud in the morning hours.

Crews and residents worked together before noon to clear as much mud and debris as possible, but they were forced to leave the affected areas due to fear that another mudslide could happen at any moment.

Mud in many places was up to residents' knees. Several homes sustained damage on Foothill Road, but no serious injuries in the immediate area were reported. Foothill Road was shut down.

Residents said it was still dark when the first of the mudslides hit. "It sounded like a freight train coming down the hill," said John Livergood. "You could hear these boulders rolling down. The whole house was shaking."

"I panicked," said Maureen Claffey. "I just said, 'There's mud in the driveway. There's mud in the driveway.'"

Elsewhere in the Thomas Fire's massive burn area, Route 33 was shut down north of Ojai -- between Fairview and Lockwood roads, the highway patrol said.

Caltrans also announced the closure of Route 150 near Lake Casitas.

There were no estimates of when the highways would be reopened.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related Topics:
trafficHighway 101CHPcalifornia highway patrolfreewayflooding
(Copyright ©2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.)