A sudden rainstorm that hit Southern California on January 9th resulted in mudslides in the town of Montecito in Santa Barbara County. As of January 14th, the Montecito mudslides had resulted in the deaths of 20 people.
Santa Barbara County spokesperson Justin Cooper told CBS News on January 14th that rescue officials had recovered another body in the wreckage, bringing the death toll from the disaster up to 20. Four people are still missing from the area.
The body recovered was identified as 30-year-old Pinit Sutthithepa. His son and father-in-law were also killed in the mudslide, while his daughter is among those still missing.
A sudden downpour on January 9th after months of dry weather caused the mudslides in Montecito, a town of about 10,000 in Santa Barbara County. According to the Los Angeles Times, the disaster cut off 40 percent of the water supply in the area, and felled power lines and gas lines. About 1,500 people remain without electricity, and 3,600 have no gas service. The 101 Highway remains closed in the area.
Before the rainstorm, 7,000 people in the area were under mandatory evacuation, and about 23,000 were placed under voluntary evacuation.
Among those affected by the mudslides were Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey, who have homes in the area. DeGeneres tweeted about the devastation in the community, and she even FaceTimed Oprah on her show to discuss the crisis.
The town of Montecito held candlelight vigils on January 13th and 14th outside the Santa Barbara County courthouse to honor those who had been killed in the disaster.
Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties were ravaged by the Thomas Fire in December. And the aftermath of what eventually became the largest fire in California history created dangerous conditions in January. Francis Rengers, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey told NPR on January 12th that the land scorched by the fire was particularly susceptible to mudslides due to the lack of vegetation. Rengers added that more rain could result in more landslides in the area.
You can help victims of the Montecito mudslides by donating to the United Way of Ventura County’s Thomas Fire and Flood Fund. Our hearts go out to all those affected by this catastrophe.