At least 19 people are dead and five remain missing after heavy rains pounded Southern California, unleashing mudflows in areas ravaged by wildfires last month.
As the death toll in the Montecito mudslides increased today, officials announced that the 101 Freeway will remain closed indefinitely.
Meanwhile, portraits of the victims are beginning to emerge.
Jon and Patty Wilson woke up about 6 a.m. Tuesday to what sounded like a roaring river outside their driveway.
They knew they had to escape their Montecito condo when they saw that their garage was submerged.
“Our garage is 6 feet,” Jon Wilson said. “We couldn’t get our car out.”
The couple, both 72, called their son, who picked them up in a truck.
Traveling roads inundated with thick, brown mud and blocked by fallen tree branches, they finally made it to an evacuation center at All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara.
The couple arrived midafternoon.
There they waited, with their dog and about 30 other people, for members of the National Guard to escort them to a shelter at Santa Barbara City College.
“We evacuated during the fire and came back two days before Christmas,” Patty Wilson said. “But we didn’t expect this.”
When authorities arrived, they helped evacuees into a vehicle. Patty Wilson and about 10 other people squished inside, recounting the horror of what they’d just been through.
“My friend is missing and I’m having a hard time when I think about [it],” said Mimi Degruy, clinging to her two dogs’ leashes as the vehicle bumped up and down. “But I appreciate how the community has come together…. I’ve lived in Montecito for 20 years and never expected this to happen.”
“Yes, I agree,” Patty Wilson replied.
Jeff King said he was stuck on the highway about 7 a.m. His wife jumped on top of her car to avoid getting swept away by fast-moving water.
During the drive, evacuees passed by familiar streets coated in mud.
“I think I see my car,” one person muttered.
When the vehicle parked outside Vons on Coast Village Road, authorities helped evacuees out.
“Is anyone injured?” one first responder asked.
A man with a cane answered: “No one is injured, but emotionally, I’m not OK.”