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Death Toll Rises To 13 In Santa Barbara County Flooding; Unknown Number Still Missing

(Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire department)
A search dog looks for survivors in the remains of a home hit by flooding in Santa Barbara County Tuesday

Thirteen people are dead, more than two dozen are hurt, and an unknown number are still missing after a waist-high wall of water and mud rolled through some homes in Montecito early Tuesday morning.

A number of houses were gutted, with rescuers pulling out people trapped under mountains of debris. Helicopters rescued some people who climbed onto the roofs of their homes to escape the torrent of water, and mud.

Keven Taylor, with the Montecito Fire District, says more than 500 firefighters are involved in ongoing search and rescue efforts which will continue through the night.  He says more than 300 people are still in the process of being evacuated from the Romero canyon area.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown confirmed 13 deaths, and says while they hope they are wrong, they think the number will rise.

The storm closed a number of highways in the region, creating chaos for tens of thousands of people who couldn’t get to work, school, or other places they were trying to travel.

The biggest shutdown is to Highway 101, which was flooded in Montecito near the Santa Barbara Zoo at around 5 a.m. Tuesday. Some of the people in vehicles trapped by the water and mud flow had to be rescued. The ongoing closure means you can’t use the 101 to travel from Ventura to Santa Barbara. The only alternative at this point is driving east, and taking Highway 5 to get between the counties.

Debris and mud also closed Highway 192 in Carpinteria, damaging some homes and ranches in the process. Highway 150 is closed from Lake Casitas to Carpinteria.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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