At least 13 people were killed Tuesday when heavy rains caused flash floods and mudslides filled with debris to slam into homes in the Montecito neighborhood of Santa Barbara, California.
Just one month following the fast-spreading wildfire that raged in the region – which is located an hour out of Los Angeles – the torrent of mud and deadly runoff of debris caused by pounding overnight rains trapped victims in homes.
Authorities confirmed Tuesday that 13 bodies had been recovered from the area. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told a news conference Tuesday afternoon that the mud swept through the town without warning.
“The only words I can really think of to describe what it looked [like] was it looked like a World War I battlefield,” said the sheriff said of the area which is known for its beautiful homes and celebrity residents. “It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere.”
At least 25 people have been injured with rescue crews taking at least 50 people by air and dozens more from the ground.
A 14-year-old girl, covered in mud, was pictured being rescued by firefighters who successfully saved her from a destroyed Montecito home after being trapped inside for hours.
In addition to many homes being destroyed, overpasses for the 101 freeway were flooded with runoff water from Montecito Creek.
“It’s going to be worse than anyone imagined for our area,” Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday about the “waist-high” mudflows. “Following our fire, this is the worst-case scenario.”
The mud lifted multiple residences off their foundations, wrapping vehicles around poles and knocking down trees.
Montecito, a wealthy community northwest of Los Angeles, is home to celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Rob Lowe and Oprah Winfrey, who revealed she had woken up to find her home surrounded in mud.
“What a day! Praying for our community again in Santa Barbara. Woke up to this blazing gas fire. then swipe left to see how deep the mud is in my backyard. Helicopters rescuing my neighbors. Looking for missing persons. 13 lives lost,’ Oprah said on instgram.
“My beautiful hometown of Montecito…. Where my roots were placed, where my mother raised me and my family. Completely under water. I really can’t believe it. I am praying and thinking so much for our friends in the hospital and their families that are still missing,” Bella said on Instagram along with an aerial photo of her neighborhood.
“For our horses, dogs, cats-all animals- that gave us happiness, who are now searching for a dry place to lay their heads.. our elementary school… The freeway to drive to school and where @mini_jk_imbig and I would walk after school.. under water. My heart is broken…. I remember when something similar happened in La Conchita about 12 years ago, so close to us and how much it took to rebuild… I can’t imagine how Montecito feels now. I am so sorry,” she continued.