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Southern California storm: Death toll in Montecito mudslide rises to 19, while 101 Freeway will remain closed indefinitely

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.

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Track key details on Southern California storm evacuations and road closures

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2-year-old girl among those still missing in Montecito mudslides; 20 confirmed dead

At least four people remain missing Monday as the grim effort to find bodies under tons of mud and debris continued in Montecito.

The death toll now stands at 20, nearly a week after the most destructive mudslide in California in decades.

On Sunday, searchers had found the body of the latest victim: 30-year-old Pinit Sutthithepa, whose 6-year-old son, Peerawat, was also killed. Sutthithepa’s 2-year-old daughter, Lydia, is missing.

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Death toll in Montecito mudslide rises to 19, while 101 Freeway will remain closed indefinitely

As the death toll in the Montecito mudslides increased to 19 on Saturday, officials announced that the 101 Freeway would remain closed indefinitely.

Search and rescue crews recovered the body of Morgan Corey, 25, who was found in debris near Mill Road about 9 a.m. Saturday, officials said. She was among at least five people who were still listed as missing.

At a late afternoon news conference at the Earl Warren Fairgrounds, Santa Barbara Fire Chief Eric Peterson spoke about the difficulties and challenges faced by emergency responders in their search for survivors.

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Among mudslide victims were children and retirees, longtime residents and immigrants

Peter Fleurat and his partner, Lalo Barajas, wanted to ride out the storm together.

Their house on Hot Springs Road in Montecito was in a voluntary evacuation zone. The couple decided to stay home, keeping an eye on their sprawling property — especially their beloved garden and koi pond.

Early Tuesday morning, the floor began to roll underneath their bed. Then a wave of mud and debris punched through their wall. The force of the debris flow sucked them both out of the house, Barajas told CBS News.

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A veteran of tragedies from 9/11 to Katrina, one firefighter counts herself blessed to be able to help during one more

Los Angeles firefighter Hollyn Bullock.
(Louis Sahagun / Los Angeles Times)

In the 27 years since joining the Los Angeles Fire Department, Hollyn Bullock has reported for search-and-rescue duty for tragedies like the World Trade Center terrorist attack in New York, Hurricane Katrina and the deadly train derailment in Chatsworth that claimed 25 lives.

On Friday, the veteran firefighter joined a team scouring through the wreckage of the latest disaster. Seventeen people were dead after mudslides tore through the Santa Barbara County community of Montecito. At least five remained missing.

And so, along a sodden, debris-tangled corner just east of the 101 Freeway, Bullock and others searched on.

“Honestly, I feel fulfilled, even blessed to have been given the opportunity to get in there and help people in times of crisis,” she said as fellow firefighters hosed contaminated mud off her boots and pant legs.

She was part of a team of 26 men and one woman: herself.

The team tried to sound an optimistic note – hoping for the best, bracing for the worst – as they used an arsenal of tools, technology and specially trained dogs to probe debris piles more than 15 feet deep near the corner of Creekside Road and Sheffield Drive.

“It’s as exhausting, frustrating and tedious as looking for a needle in a haystack,” Battalion Chief Mark Akahoshi said, while hunched over a topographical map of surrounding terrain studded with ranches and mansions offering panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

Nodding appreciatively toward team members tramping knee deep through mud contaminated with pesticides and sewage, he said, “Take a look at the dedication on the faces of these guys. They’re in it for as long as it takes to finish the job and say, ‘That’s it. Done. We searched every inch.’ ”

Bullock, 55, plans to retire in the summer.

She joined the department in 1990, when women made up an even smaller fraction of the firefighting force.

“It was my father who suggested I become a firefighter. But sometimes I feel I was born to be one,” she said. “I can bore you to tears with stories about comradery, hard, dirty team work and helping folks out of the worst trouble of their lives.”

“So, yes, I’m bowing out in summer,” she added with a smile as fire trucks roared past. “But there are other women firefighters joining up even as I speak, and this won’t be the last disaster of this scale. I can guarantee that.”

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Number of people missing in deadly Montecito slide reduced to five, officials say

The number of people still missing in the wake of a deadly mudslide in Montecito now figures at five, officials said Friday morning.

Authorities said late Thursday that roughly 43 people were unaccounted for after heavy rains pounded the Thomas fire burn scar earlier this week and unleashed a torrent of mud, boulders and debris that killed 17 and destroyed scores of homes. The number of missing had grown, officials said, after authorities combed through social media posts and message boards at evacuation shelters.

Many of those people since have been reported safe, according to Chris Elms, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, but the number of people missing remains fluid.

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The same elements that made the Thomas fire such a monster also created deadly debris flows

Santa Barbara County crews worked through the holidays to defend coastal communities from the second half of Southern California’s familiar cycle of fire and flood.

They cleaned out the 11 debris basins that dot the Santa Barbara front country, making room for the dirt and ash and rocks that winter rains would inevitably send tumbling down mountain slopes laid bare by the massive Thomas Fire.

But when the first major storm of the season slammed into the coast Monday, the thundering deluge of mud, car-sized boulders and trees that fell upon Montecito was beyond anything they expected.

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Couple separated by a wall of mud — and only one survived

Boulders, logs and a carpet of mud in front of a house along San Ysidro Creek near East Valley Road in Montecito.
(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

Late Monday, Josie Gower stacked two rows of sandbags around her home in Montecito and settled in for the night.

Her home on East Valley Road was in the voluntary evacuation zone for the storm expected to sweep through the area.

Gower was not concerned. She told her family that she had weathered worse than the storm she believed was on its way, including the Thomas fire — the largest in California’s recorded history — just one month before.

Around 3 a.m. Tuesday, Gower, 69, woke up to the sound of rain thundering on the roof. She walked downstairs, where her boyfriend had been keeping an eye on the storm. Together, they opened the front door and looked outside.

A wall of mud, debris and boulders as big as pickup trucks thundered toward the house, sweeping the couple out the front door. Gower clung to the door frame. Her boyfriend reached for her hand.

Neither could hold on.

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Fire, mudflows, evacuations and deaths: Maps show how Montecito has been hit

The Thomas fire began its destructive march 30 miles east of Montecito on Dec. 4. Two weeks later, the blaze had begun to bear down on the city, eventually leaving fire-scarred hillsides prone to deadly mudflows.

Thomas fire progression

The Thomas fire became California’s largest wildfire on record, burning more than 280,000 acres across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

(Raoul Ranoa / @latimesgraphics)

Debris flow potential

In the weeks since the deadly fire, the U.S. Geological Survey studied the burn area to determine its vulnerability to flash floods, mudslides and debris flows. The likelihood of a debris flow is based on a peak 15-minute rainfall intensity of 24 millimeters per hour. Scientists used burn severity, soil properties, rainfall data and a number of other factors for their estimation.

(Raoul Ranoa / @latimesgraphics)

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Wearing a little boy’s rainboots, 88-year-old Montecito resident evacuated with help of neighbors

Neighbors help an 88-year-old woman, Gloria Hebert, evacuate her Montecito home.

On Wednesday morning, Liana Mortazavi, 49, sat in the frame of the back door of the duplex where her mom has lived for nearly 40 years along Olive Mill Road.

She had driven from San Jose on Tuesday night and slogged her way through mud with a childhood friend to reach her 88-year-old mother, Gloria Hebert.

The front door was blocked by a tree, mud and debris. When they got inside the house, they pushed up a couch against the front door to keep more mud from seeping in. When Mortazavi measured the mud around the house where she’d grown up, she said there was 14-1/2 inches all around the house.

“It’s impossible for my mom to walk out of here,” she said.

Although Mortazavi planned to call the Montecito Fire Department to help evacuate her mom, it was neighbors who came to the rescue.

Hebert put her arms around their necks and they lifted her together over the mud. She wore rain boots belonging to her neighbor’s 6th-grade son.

“What was amazing to me was that the community did come together,” Mortazavi said. “These are neighbors — I was a classmate with one of them since childhood. It’s amazing how these childhood relationships, they’ll just kick in really fast. There’s this foundation of community.”

Mortazavi and her mom reached San Jose by 8 p.m. Wednesday.

“My mom will stay with us as long as she needs to,” Mortazavi said. “If it’s a long-term thing, we’ve got a plan.”

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Mud picked up one elderly couple and tossed them into closet

Around 10 a.m. Wednesday, about half a dozen search-and-rescue crews, working in the wake of devastating rain and mudflows, began looking for missing people along Olive Mill Road and Hot Springs Road here.

Moving through a few feet of mud, rescuers looked inside wrecked cars and destroyed homes. Nearby, about a dozen nursing home staffers from Casa Dorinda braced the mud — many wearing sandals and sneakers— not expecting to see the level of devastation that now engulfed the street.

The nursing home employs 150 people and has around 300 residents. Many residents didn’t leave despite being under a voluntary evacuation order. One portion of the nursing home was destroyed.

After trekking through knee-deep mud, the nursing home staffers were greeted with happy cheers from residents. “Ahoy!” one yelled.

Chris Lambert, 72, didn’t evacuate. He’s been a ER physician for the last 40 years and volunteers with the medical reserves corps in Santa Barbara County.

He said he heard a roaring noise around 6 a.m Tuesday, came out with his wife and saw people completely drenched in mud. He said he immediately began treating people.

“I helped around 10 people. Many had lacerations and bruises,” he said.

He said he helped one elderly couple whose neighbors’ garage was pushed through their bedroom by the mudflow.

He said the mud picked them up and tossed them into the closet.

“They weren’t expecting it. One minute they’re sleeping and the next they’re being dragged by mud. Miraculously, they survived,” he said.

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La Tuna Canyon Road in Sunland remains closed

A woman trudges through mud piled on La Tuna Canyon Road after checking on her neighbor whose house was blocked by a mudslide that struck the area.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

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About 300 people still stuck in Romero Canyon; rescue operations will resume at daybreak

Hot Springs Road in Montecito on Tuesday morning.
Hot Springs Road in Montecito on Tuesday morning.
(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

About 300 people remain stuck in their homes in Montecito’s Romero Canyon neighborhood after impassable roads halted rescue operations, officials said.

First-responders plan to launch aerial rescues at daybreak for those residents, all of whom are safe.

“So far there isn’t a concern about anybody being in any potential danger in that area,” said Rosie Narez, a spokeswoman for the multiagency storm response. “There’s no way in or out, so I mean, at some point … you’re going to run out of stuff, so you’re going to need help.”

Authorities said the residents are in a mandatory evacuation zone.

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After frantic search, mother and daughter are reunited in Montecito

Sally Mobraaten arrived at Santa Barbara City College in a frenzy Tuesday night.

The 56-year-old Goleta resident had already called 911 and driven around for a few hours looking for her 86-year-old mother, whom firefighters had evacuated from a Montecito condo.

Mobraaten was nearly in tears as she spoke with a Red Cross volunteer.

“I’m not sure where she could be,” the volunteer said.

Determined to find her ailing mother, Mobraaten hopped back inside her white SUV and headed toward Vons on Coast Village Road, where the National Guard had been dropping people off.

Along the way, she called called hotels in Santa Barbara. No luck. Despite police roadblocks on the streets, she forged ahead.

Soon after, she pulled into the Vons parking lot and glanced around. Still no sign of her mom.

But then, she spotted an elderly woman wearing a red rain coat and a white hat.

She breathed a sigh of relief and shouted: “That’s my mother!”

With the engine of her SUV still running, Mobraaten jumped out, ran to her mother and gave her a kiss.

“I’m happy I found you, Mom,” she said as members of the National Guard helped them put her mother’s suitcase inside the car.

Sally’s mom, Cynthia Mobraaten, wore a huge smile.

Inside the car, Sally joked with her mom: “I’m so jealous you got to ride in a military vehicle…. I want to hear all about it.”

“I bet my butt is still muddy,” her mom replied, chuckling. “I didn’t let you get your beauty sleep tonight I guess.”

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At one evacuation shelter, a makeshift message board helps people search for loved ones

(Brittny Mejia / Los Angeles Times)

At the evacuation shelter at Santa Barbara City College, someone taped up a white poster with the words “message board” scrawled in black.

Written below, in blue, was “Augie & Karen Johnson,” with a question mark in front of their names.

Other names, also next to question marks, filled the page, which turned into a makeshift forum for people to search for loved ones. They left their phone numbers on yellow sticky notes asking strangers to please call, sometimes telling the missing that they loved them.

“He is OK,” someone wrote next to one crossed-out name.

Isacc Cervantes painstakingly checked each sticky note and piece of paper attached to the board, hoping to hear about his former co-worker Larry Lopez, who lives in Montecito.

Cervantes went through the parking lot a couple of times looking for Lopez’s truck and scoured the shelter, but wasn’t able to find him.

Cervantes met Lopez three years ago while the two worked together at UC Santa Barbara. Lopez was a mechanic and has since retired.

“From what I heard, where he lived is, like, totally gone now,” Cervantes said. “He doesn’t really have anybody that talks to him. He’s shut off from everybody.... I just wanted to see if he was here.”

Cervantes had been out for a drive with his wife and baby when he came to check the shelter.

“I just want to find him and make sure he’s OK,” he said. “I had to check.”

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Oprah trudges through shin-deep mud after powerful rainstorm pummels her neighborhood

Oprah Winfrey offered prayers Tuesday to her neighbors in Santa Barbara affected by a powerful rainstorm that sent mud and debris flowing through neighborhoods recently under siege by wildfire.

In an Instagram post, the media mogul said she woke up to a blazing gas fire and then found shin-deep mud in her backyard.

The post included video of her trudging through the debris, before she pans up to show that the “house in the back is gone.”

“What a day! Praying for our community again in Santa Barbara,” she wrote. “Helicopters rescuing my neighbors. Looking for missing persons. 13 lives lost.”

Winfrey made headlines recently after delivering an inspiring speech at the Golden Globes that led many to speculate about a possible 2020 presidential run.

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After a river ran through her front and back yards, her chickens found refuge on top of a car

Susan Moe's chickens were perched on rubble she said was on top of a car.
(Susan Moe)

It was about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday when Susan Moe and her husband woke up to what they thought was the sound of a roaring river.

So, they got up and checked.

“We looked out at our front yard and there was a river,” she said. “We looked at our back yard, and it was a river.”

She said the sky was glowing red. Somewhere, a fire had broken out.

“It was really disturbing,” she said. “We didn’t know what to do, so we decided to stay and shelter in place.”

By 4:30 a.m., firefighters came to escort them out of their home; a gas line had ruptured across the street, according to Moe.

The couple returned to devastation.

“Other people’s trees were in our yard,” Moe said. “Our mailbox was gone. Our neighbor’s house has a big crack.... Homes were red-tagged.”

Her chicken coop had been swept away. The chickens, however, were perched on rubble Moe said was on top of a vehicle.

Around town, people are learning of the number of people — neighbors — who are missing and injured.

“It feels like this was way worse than the fire,” Moe said.

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‘It looked like a World War I battlefield’: First-responders faced challenges rescuing residents

(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies issued mandatory evacuation orders Monday for 7,000 people, and voluntary advisories for 23,000 others.

Though some residents cooperated, many chose to stay in place, said Sheriff Bill Brown.

Between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., sheriff’s dispatchers handled more than 600 calls from people who were distressed, stranded in their homes or cars and in need of rescue.

When daylight came, mud that was knee-deep or higher made it difficult for rescuers to access many of the affected areas.

“It looked like a World War I battlefield,” Brown said. “It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere with huge boulders, rocks, downed trees, power lines, wrecked cars — lots of obstacles and challenges for rescue personnel to get to homes, let alone get people out of them.”

At least several dozen homes were damaged or destroyed. Brown said he had declared the mudslide area a rescue zone and asked that onlookers stay away.

Crews rescued 50 people by air and dozens more by ground, with about 500 firefighters responding from across the state. As of Tuesday afternoon, about 300 people were still waiting to be rescued from Romero Canyon.

At least 20 people — four of whom were in severe or critical condition — were treated for storm-related injuries, said Dr. Brett Wilson, emergency department director at Cottage Health in Santa Barbara.

Hospitals were already busy because of the recent surge in flu cases, and about 230 employees couldn’t go to work Tuesday because of road closures due to the storm, said Ron Werft, president and chief executive of Cottage Health.

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After heeding evacuation warning, Carpinteria family returns to flooded home

Maude and Ben Boersema live near a creek by Foothill Road in Carpinteria with their young daughter and son.

Maude took the kids and left their home about noon Monday for a relative’s house, and Ben came back to check on the house. They knew the house, which they’ve had about five years, had flooded in the 1960s after a fire and that engineers had changed the course of the creek to try to prevent that from happening again.

The drizzle was so light into the early evening Monday that Maude considered coming back. But Ben heard the cracking, like thunder, and got in his truck and left around 4 am.

“I was scared,” he said. “As soon as I heard trees breaking in half and felt the house shaking, I was out.”

They came back early Tuesday to find their whole living room flooded. They have floor-to-ceiling windows, and about 3 feet of muddy water came through the bottom of the door.

They felt lucky it wasn’t much worse. They’ll lose their now-buckling — and brand new — wood floors. But the house is mostly OK.

Their neighbors had already cleaned the mud and water out by late morning with their tractors and good, old-fashioned legwork.

“All our neighbors are so kick-ass,” Ben said, nodding at neighbor Peter Lapidus as he maneuvered his tractor up a flooded and muddy Foothill Road.

Maude and the kids were gone for about 11 days during the mandatory fire evacuations as the Thomas fire burned about a quarter mile from their home in December. Ben stayed behind at the house they’ve spent years refurbishing.

“He’s put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this house, and he clearly isn’t ready to see it go yet,” she said.

“It’s a natural disaster,” she said, “but we live in paradise 99% of the time.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Foothill Road in front of their house was impassable, covered with a thick sludge of mud, rocks and downed trees.

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Avoid the 101 Freeway through Montecito. Officials say it will likely be closed until Thursday

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‘Emotionally, I’m not OK’: Evacuees recount flights from floods

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.”

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New mandatory evacuations ordered near fire-ravaged slopes in Sun Valley and Corona

A Los Angeles Police Department car stuck in the mud on La Tuna Canyon Road.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Authorities ordered new evacuations Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles and Corona because of heavy debris flows from slopes burned by recent wildfires.

Residents of 23 Sun Valley homes — those that sit between 8300 and 8800 La Tuna Canyon Road — were ordered to leave, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Those whose homes sit south of that area were encouraged to leave voluntarily.

La Tuna Canyon Road will be closed from Sunland Boulevard to the 210 Freeway until authorities can clear the roads.

An evacuation center was opened at Sun Valley Recreation Center at 8133 Vineland Ave.

In Corona, areas burned by the Canyon 1 fire — including homes on San Ramon Drive, San Almada Road and Elderberry Circle — were ordered to evacuate. A full list of at-risk properties is available here.

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Debris flow swept his father and brother from their Montecito home. As of now, he knows little else

Stationed in Hawaii for the Navy, Tyler McManigal, 28, was notified Tuesday that his father and brother were swept away by flooding in Montecito.

In a phone interview, he said he knew very little else about what happened.

McManigal said that when the flash flood warning went out, his 64-year-old father, John, woke up and rushed over to wake up his brother, Connor. The pair made it out of their home in the 300 block of Hot Springs Road, just north of Olive Mill Road.

But they could not escape the torrent of brown liquid mixed with branches, rocks, boulders and other debris that carried away the family home.

“My father is being reported as missing right now,” he said. “They found my brother probably three-quarters of a mile away, south of where the house is, on the 101 Freeway.”

McManigal said Connor was taken to a local hospital.

“My brother is OK,” he said.

But his father, who had six children, is yet to be found. McManigal said he is trying to get back home.

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Founder of Catholic school among those killed in Montecito mudslide

The founder of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura was among those killed early Tuesday morning when a powerful mudslide swept him and his wife from their Montecito home.

Roy Rohter was identified by officials at Thomas Aquinas College, from which his daughter graduated in 2000. His wife, Theresa, was rescued and is in stable condition, officials said.

Friends remembered Rohter as an energetic leader and generous benefactor of the college.

“Roy Rohter was a man of strong faith and a great friend of Catholic education,” Michael F. McLean, president of the college, said in a statement posted on the school’s website. “He played a pivotal role in the lives of countless young Catholic students — students who came to a deeper knowledge and love of Christ because of his vision, commitment, and generosity.”

Michael Van Hecke, headmaster of St. Augustine, said in a statement that Rohter “has done so much for so many people and pro-life and Catholic education causes. … Thousands have been blessed by the Rohters’ friendship and generosity.”

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Mudslides around Thomas fire burn area exacerbated by 11 months of dry conditions

Bill Patzert, climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, said mudslides are par for the course in this region.

“There are four seasons in California – drought, followed by fire, followed by floods, followed by mudslides,” he said. “That’s the normal sequence that we live with, unfortunately.”

Patzert said the worst debris flows happen during an “atmospheric river event,” when 6-10 inches of rain falls in the course of two or three days. It’s fortunate, he said, that Tuesday’s mudslides weren’t preceded by more rain. It could have been worse.

But Patzert said the mudslides were exacerbated by the fact that Southern California saw less than one inch of rain in the past 11 months, making conditions extremely dry. And he said that hot, fast-moving fires change the chemistry of surface soil, allowing little water to soak through. That means debris can flow unconstrained.

Patzert said California has some of the best flood controls in the world. Basins around the foothills catch debris flows to mitigate damage, and most runoff flows into the Pacific Ocean. The damage that results from mudslides, he said, is mainly a function of bad zoning.

“When you’re living below a hillside that potentially can burn, you’re a risk-taker,” he said.

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Rains move into L.A., Orange counties; burn areas at risk

The concern over mudslides shifted to burn areas in Los Angeles and Orange Counties as the storm system that caused deadly flooding in Montecito moved east.

Flood alerts were issued for area burned by recent fires in Anaheim Hills and the canyon near Sylmar.

“Showers and isolated thunderstorms are expected through this evening across Los Angeles County with periods of very heavy rain. Rainfall rates between one half and one inch per hour are possible,” the National Weather Service said in a statement. “Such rain rates are capable of producing flash flooding. Recent burn areas will be especially vulnerable where dangerous mud and debris flows are possible.”

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At least 8 dead as heavy rains trigger flooding, mudflows and freeway closures across Southern California

At least eight people were killed Tuesday when a rainstorm sent mud and debris coursing through Montecito neighborhoods and left rescue crews to scramble through clogged roadways and downed trees to search for victims.

The deluge that washed over Santa Barbara County early Tuesday was the worst-case scenario for a community that was ravaged by the Thomas fire only a few weeks earlier. In just a matter of minutes, pounding rain overwhelmed the south-facing slopes above Montecito and flooded a creek that leads to the ocean, sending mud and massive boulders rolling into residential neighborhoods, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason

“It’s going to be worse than anyone imagined for our area,” he said. “Following our fire, this is the worst-case scenario.”

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Big rig plummets from overpass onto 5 Freeway in Pacoima

A big rig tumbled onto the 5 Freeway in Pacoima from the 118 Freeway overpass.
(KTLA)

A driver on the 5 Freeway says he looked out from his small Prius and saw a large truck come tumbling off the 118 Freeway overpass above.

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With Santa Barbara County roads blocked, Coast Guard helicopters step in

The U.S. Coast Guard’s work in the Santa Barbara County flooding began before sunrise Tuesday, when firefighters asked for help rescuing two people injured in a storm-related house explosion, officials said.

Area roads were buried under mud and blocked by big boulders. So a Coast Guard crew was dispatched about 6:15 a.m. from the Los Angeles/Long Beach base on an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter usually used for rescues at sea.

The crew hoisted two people and flew them to Santa Barbara Airport, where they were airlifted to a hospital for their injuries, said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer DaVonte Marrow.

Hours later, a second crew aboard an MH-65 Dolphin was dispatched to Carpinteria, where they airlifted two people and a dog from a rooftop.

About 11:30 a.m., the Coast Guard requested additional support and brought in an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from San Diego. The crew onboard rescued five people from another Carpinteria rooftop.

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In Burbank, mandatory evacuations after a mudslide that swept cars away

Residents of Country Club Drive in Burbank were ordered to evacuate their homes Tuesday after heavy rains caused a morning mudslide.

Burbank police released a video of cars that were caught in the slide.

The mudslide occurred just before dawn along a stretch of Country Club Drive at the base of the Verdugo Mountains.

According to Sgt. Derek Green, a spokesman for the Burbank Police Department, the road had been deemed temporarily off-limits to traffic and parking just before rain began in the city on Monday.

Burbank police urged residents to keep track of the storm conditions through local news and by following their updates on social media.

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Heavy rainfall triggers mudflows and road closures where wildfires burned

Roadways around the perimeters of the Thomas and other recent fires have been closed due to mudflows triggered by heavy precipitation.

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Wave of mud closes Topanga Canyon Boulevard, and Waze is of little help

A car in a mudslide on Topanga Canyon Boulevard
(Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times)

Just before 9 a.m. Tuesday, Caltrans worker Demauriel Myles sat in his truck, parked perpendicular across Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Four signs that read “Road closed” formed an impromptu blockade just south of Grand View Drive.

A wave of mud rolled down a hillside in the canyon just after 5 a.m. Tuesday, burying a car and blocking the northbound lane, Myles said. The road was closed in both directions

Caltrans crews had started to dig out the mudslide using a truck with an attached plow, Myles said, but they were proceeding cautiously because Tuesday’s forecast called for more rain throughout the day.

“They have to make sure it doesn’t slide some more,” he said as raindrops plunked down on his windows. “It’s going to keep doing this.”

Through his fogged truck windows, Myles saw a line of cars streaming toward the blockade, their drivers making U-turns and pulling to the muddy shoulder of the road to check their navigation apps.

Several apps, including Waze, did not mark the closure during the morning rush hour, leaving commuters stuck in a canyon road with poor service.

“It’s telling me to make a left here,” said Frank Lee, 32, who pulled over and opened Waze. He gestured up a steep road to the west, where a ramshackle cabin sat dripping at the foot of the hill. “Am I going to be off-roading?”

Willie Chaides, the general manager of Topanga Lumber, opened the door to look out on Topanga Canyon and stepped onto the stoop as the rain began to ease.

A driver in a black pickup truck had just turned around at the blockade. He pulled over, rolled his window down and shouted, “Hey, how do I get to PCH from here?”

“Take Fernwood to Tuna Canyon, man,” Chaides said. “It’s the only way right now.”

Chaides said the lumber store had received about a dozen calls Tuesday morning from residents who knew the store was one of the closest buildings to the closures.

“We don’t know more than anybody else,” he said. “We’re just reading them what’s on the Caltrans site.”

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LAX reports flooding in Terminal 2

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Girl rescued, others trapped as mudslide destroys homes

The mudslides in Santa Barbara County that killed at least five people devastated a Montecito neighborhood as mud inundated homes.

Dramatic video and images emerged of Santa Barbara County Fire Department rescuing a girl on Hot Springs Road and rescue dogs looking for other victims.

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Dramatic images of 101 Freeway blanketed in debris and mud

A view of the Northbound 101 freeway in Carpinteria as mud sits along the road from a rain storm Tuesday morning.
( Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The 101 Freeway was hit hard by flooding and mudslides as heavy rains slammed the Thomas fire burn area Tuesday morning.

The freeway was shut down in both directions for more than 30 miles in the Thomas fire burn area because of flooding and debris flow, spanning an area from Santa Barbara to Ventura, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Highway 33 also has been closed between Fairview and Rose Valley roads north of Ojai, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

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More stormy weather advancing on L.A. County

The storm front that pounded Santa Barbara County early Tuesday — causing mudflows and widespread damage — is moving into an already soaked Los Angeles County.

The National Weather Service said the storm will arrive in the L.A. basin around 10 a.m., bringing several more inches of rain in some areas.

The weather service said the situation in Santa Barbara County is easing somewhat.

“Rainfall intensities have weakened over the last hour. While flash flooding and debris flows are still occurring in and near the Thomas fire and a flash flood warning remains in effect, the minor flooding threat well away from the burn area over Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties has decreased so this flood advisory will be allowed to expire,” the NWS said in a statement.

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Man and dog rescued as rising water closes Sepulveda Basin

A man and a dog were rescued in the Sepulveda Basin early Tuesday as rising water from heavy rain prompted the closure of the flood control area in the San Fernando Valley.

Officials warned of traffic delays due to the closure, affecting Burbank Boulevard among other roads.

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Flooding, mud traps LAPD cruiser in La Tuna Canyon

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles Police Department cruiser got stuck in a mudflow Tuesday on La Tuna Canyon Road.

The area was burned in December by the Creek fire, and officials called for evacuations of some residents from the general area in advance of the storm.

La Tuna Canyon Road was closed due to the mudslides.

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Storm triggers flooding, mud flows and freeway closures throughout Thomas fire burn area

Heavy rains triggered freeway closures throughout the region Tuesday and unleashed mud flows in areas ravaged by wildfires last month, shutting down more than 30 miles of the 101 Freeway and leaving one person dead as rescue personnel scrambled through clogged roadways and downed trees, officials said.

As of 5 a.m., at least 5 inches of rainfall had been collected in a gauge north of Ojai in Ventura County, in the burn area of the Thomas fire, which forced evacuations and destroyed homes last month, according to the National Weather Service in Los Angeles.

Mike Eliason, a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said a heavy band of rain that hit the area around 2:30 a.m. has caused “waist-high” mud flows in Montecito. Several roads are littered with downed trees and power lines, and a gas main break caused at least one fire to erupt.

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What’s the difference between a debris flow and a deep-seated landslide?

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Animated infographic shows how debris flows and deep-seated landslides happen

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Video shows mudslide sweeping away cars in Burbank hills

The hills above Burbank, which were hit by a major wildfire in summer, saw mudflows sweep away several cars Tuesday morning.

There were no reports of injuries, but officials urged residents to stay away from the area. Portions of the Burbank burn zone were evacuated Monday. They include:

-- Country Club Drive above Via Montana
-- All of Hamline Place
-- 925-1030 Groton Drive
-- 830-849 Stephen Road
-- 907-936 Irving Drive
-- 2906 and 2934 Olney Place
-- 2934 Remy Place
-- 2949 Mystic View Place
-- 3430-3436 Brace Canyon Road
-- 3301-3310 Brookshire Court
-- 3318, 3321, 3322 and 3422 Wedgewood Court
-- 3514-3519 Folkstone Court
-- 3529-3530 Castleman Lane

The Burbank Police Department released the video above capturing part of the scene on Country Club Drive.

“These conditions are very dangerous. Please use caution,” the department said on Twitter.

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‘Multiple rescues’ in Montecito as mudslides bring new dangers

Montecito, which was hit hard last month by the Thomas fire, got another pounding Tuesday morning by a powerful storm that caused mudslides.

The storm closed the 101 Freeway through the coastal town in southern Santa Barbara County and also prompted rescues.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department said “multiple rescues” occurred and posted photos of one of them.

More than 7 inches of rain was expected in the mountains above Montecito as the storm moved through Tuesday.