Sunday, January 21 , 2018, 2:53 am | Fair 49º

 
 
 
 

Local News

At Least 8 Dead as Massive Flooding, Mud Flows Swamp Montecito and Carpinteria

Emergency personnel hampered by impassible roads throughout the communities downhill from the Thomas Fire burn area

 

This story was last updated at 1:21 p.m.

At least eight people died in Montecito early Tuesday as a result of major mud flows and flooding caused by a powerful winter storm that dropped heavy rain on the Thomas Fire burn area.

A woman's remains were found on Butterfly Beach, another body discovered at Olive Mill Road and the railroad tracks, and a third was located at the Highway 101 offramp at Channel Drive.

There were at least three other fatalities, according to Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, but details were not available.

However, radio reports indicated two bodies were discovered on the 200 block of Olive Mill Road and another on North Jameson Lane at Hixon Road.

Virtually all major roads leading into Montecito were reported to be impassible, with heavy flows of water, mud and debris on the roadways.

At least three homes were destroyed on the 300 block of Hot Springs Road, according to Mike Eliason, a Fire Department spokesman.

A Santa Maria Fire Department truck helps evacuate people in Montecito. Click to view larger
A Santa Maria Fire Department truck helps evacuate people in Montecito. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

Two men, a woman and a dog were rescued at that location.

Much of the damage and many of the casualties occurred in areas that were under evacuation warnings rather than mandatory evacuation orders.

San Ysidro Road, Olive Mill Road and other streets were reported to be completely impassible due to flooding, and mud flows were reported on East Valley Road.

Emergency radio traffic also indicated numerous reports of people trapped inside structures and vehicles and unable to evacuate, and 9-1-1 lines were being overwhelmed.

Several rescues were underway on Olive Mill Road, according to emergency radio traffic.

Boulders are strewn across Hot Springs Road in Montecito left by flash flooding. Click to view larger
Boulders are strewn across Hot Springs Road in Montecito left by flash flooding. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

At 10:15 a.m., another waves of showers was headed toward the South Coast, raising the possiblity of more flooding and debris flows.

Highway 101 was reported shut down in both directions in Montecito, while northbound 101 was closed near Ventura due to flooding north of La Conchita. 

Highway 150 was closed near Lake Casitas and State Route 33 was closed due to flooding, mud, debris flows and downed wires, according to Caltrans. 

Santa Barbara County advised everyone to shelter in place or go to high ground, but stay off the roads, if they are still within mandatory or voluntary evacuation areas

The Olive Mill Road overpass at Highway 101 is covered with mud and debris. Click to view larger
The Olive Mill Road overpass at Highway 101 is covered with mud and debris. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

"Take protective actions to stay safe which may include sheltering-in-place or seeking high ground, avoiding power lines and trees, staying off roads and highways, and do not attempt to leave and drive across flowing water or mud," the county said in an advisory message sent out around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Residents of Casa Dorinda in Montecito were reported safe in their apartments, though phones were out as of 11:45 a.m., according to an update on its Facebook page

Casa Dorinda has independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing at its facilities at 300 Hot Springs Rd.

"Due to the large amounts of debris and mud in the surrounding area, there is no clear path in or out of Casa Dorinda. We are working on restoring utilities, and will keep you updated as more information comes available," the facility said in a message on its Facebook page. The facility was inside a voluntary evacuation zone and had recently evacuated some residents and sheltered others in place during the Thomas Fire. 

Firefighters assist an injured woman on Hot Springs Road in Montecito while waiting for an ambulance early Tuesday. Click to view larger
Firefighters assist an injured woman on Hot Springs Road in Montecito while waiting for an ambulance early Tuesday. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

Tuesday morning, there was a report of a large natural gas fire in the area of El Bosque Road, but details were not available.

There also was a report of a natural gas explosion and structure fire on Via Manana.

Creeks in the Carpinteria area were reported to be flowing across the freeway.

A Coast Guard helicopter was called in to evacuate two patients — reportedly suffering severe burns — from Birnam Wood Country Club.

Santa Barbara county firefighters rescue two men and a woman from flood water/debris flow off Hot Springs Road in Montecito early Tuesday. Multiple rescues were underway throughout the area. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara county firefighters rescue two men and a woman from flood water/debris flow off Hot Springs Road in Montecito early Tuesday. Multiple rescues were underway throughout the area. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s emergency room had nine flooding-related patients come in as of 9 a.m. Tuesday, spokeswoman Maria Zate said.

Rescuers are having difficulty accessing patients and getting them out of the Montecito area, so it’s unclear how high the number of injured people may go. 

All Saints by the Sea Episcopal Church was being used Tuesday as a triage center, with paramedics on scene, for people with injuries due to the inability of ambulances to access other areas.

Authorities set up a fueling station for helicopters at La Colina Junior High School, and the U.S. Coast Guard was also responding with helicopters, according to the county.

A wrecked vehicle on Hot Springs Road in Montecito. Click to view larger
A wrecked vehicle on Hot Springs Road in Montecito. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

No drones are permitted to fly in the area, and rescue efforts will immediately stop if one is spotted, the county said. 

Southern California Edison reportedly turned off power to most of the Montecito area early Tuesday, since downed power lines were hampering emergency response. 

Smaller weather-related outages were also reported in Summerland and Carpinteria areas, according to the Edison Outage Map

Flash Flood Warnings were issued early Tuesday for areas around the Thomas, Whittier and Alamo burn scars.

Mud coats the side of a home on Hot Springs Road in Montecito while debris litters the roadway. Click to view larger
Mud coats the side of a home on Hot Springs Road in Montecito while debris litters the roadway. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

Such warnings mean flooding is imminent or is occurring, and anyone in the area is urged to get to higher ground.

Shortly before 3 a.m., doppler radar was showing heavy rain falling across the burn areas from the three fires, according to the National Weather Service.

Automated rain gauges were showing rainfall rates of between a half inch and an inch per hour.

In the three hours ending at 5:30 a.m., Montecito had received 1.3 inches of rain, while Carpinteria had 1.76 inches.

The warning for the Thomas and Whittier fires was in effect until 5:30 a.m., while the Alamo warning was in effect until 7 a.m.

The areas previously had been under Flash Flood Watches.

Check back with Noozhawk for updates to this story.

Residents are encouraged to sign up for alerts from the Aware & Prepare program, and to heed all evacuation orders and warnings.

» Click here for Santa Barbara County’s interactive map of possible flooding areas.

» Click here for the latest weather forecast.

» Click here for real-time rainfall amounts.

» Click here for road closures in Santa Barbara County.

» Click here to sign up for Noozhawk’s free breaking news text alerts to your cell phone.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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