Death Toll Climbs to 15 in Southern California Mudslides

A semi-trailer sits stuck in mud on US Highway 101 in Montecito California

Highway 101 has been shut down in both directions because of the mud, Santa Barbara County officials announced Tuesday afternoon.

Helicopters were used to hoist more than 50 people to safety from roofs, where they scrambled to escape the mud or because debris had blocked roads and left them stranded.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said: "We've got a window that's closing but we're still very optimistic we've got some time".

"The house being gone, it's just a house, it's just some clothes and a house", Sam Johnson told Reuters. Teams have completed initial searches of the entire debris field and are about a quarter of the way through a more intensive follow-up search of the zone, Anderson said.

"The water was moving at 15 miles an hour, taking everything in its wake, dropping boulders and debris, clogging culverts, knocking out pipes", said state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson.

Ellen DeGeneres, who lives in Montecito, spoke emotionally on her show Wednesdasy about what has been happening in her community.

Southern California can not catch a break, as fallout from half a dozen historically destructive wildfires continues with this week's widespread flash flooding occurring in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The first rain in months caused mudslides when it hit ground that had been burned by December's huge wildfires.

This mudslide originated from the Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara, which have been scorched by recent fires in the area.

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The ESRI map combines data collected from various geographical agencies such as USGS, Bureau of Land Management and NGA as well as NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Ventura County received the largest amount of rain, 130 millimeters, according to the Los Angeles Weather Services.

The drenching rainstorm that triggered the disaster cleared out and was no longer a hindrance as searchers made their way across a landscape strewn with boulders and covered shoulder high in places with mud the consistency of wet cement.

The fires burned most vegetation, leaving ideal conditions for the latest tragedy to unfold. In some areas, these rivers were so massive that they reportedly "wiped homes away from their foundations".

Weeks after fires devastated the area, flood waters and mudslides have destroyed homes and officials said at least eight people are missing.

Celebrities who have properties in the area have also been affected.

The US Coast Guard has sent "multiple airships to support rescue operations" and warned the public not to fly drones, otherwise the flights would be grounded.

California has suffered severe drought in five out of six of the past years.

"I think most people are really shocked at the extent of the damage and how big the impact was to the area", Brown said.

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