Montecito, California, Residents Told to 'Leave Now!'

Evacuation order came on 5th anniversary of deadly mudslide
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 9, 2023 7:05 PM CST
Montecito, California, Residents Told to 'Leave Now!'
A man tries to clear a storm drain near his house as floodwaters rise on East Lake Avenue in Watsonville, Calif., Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.   (AP Photo/Nic Coury)

The entire community of Montecito, California, and surrounding canyons were ordered to evacuate Monday amid a deluge of rain that has flooded roads and swollen waterways. The evacuation order affecting about 10,000 people came on the fifth anniversary of a mudslide that killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 homes in the coastal enclave. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the decision to evacuate came "based on the continuing high rate of rainfall with no indication that that is going to change before nightfall," the AP reports. Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor said at least 8 inches of rain had fallen in 12 hours, with several more inches expected. The canyon communities under evacuation orders are under hillsides burned bare in recent years by wildfires. "Leave now!" the fire department said in a message to residents, per the BBC.

Upscale Montecito is squeezed between mountains and the Pacific coast and is home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle. Up the coast, evacuation orders were issued for about 32,000 people in Santa Cruz County because of swollen rivers and creeks. Much of the state was being walloped by a major winter storm that inundated roads, toppled trees, and knocked out power to tens of thousands. Some schools closed for the day. The number of deaths related to the storms climbed from 12 to 14 on Monday, state officials said.

Rescuers ended the search for a 5-year-old boy who was swept away by floodwaters in central California on Monday morning after it became unsafe for divers to continue. The search was called off around 3pm because the current and rising water levels of the Salinas River were too dangerous for divers, said spokesperson Tony Cipolla of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, per the AP. The boy's mother was driving a truck when it became stranded in floodwaters just before 8am near Paso Robles, said Tom Swanson, assistant chief of the Cal Fire/San Luis Obispo County Fire Department. Bystanders were able to pull the woman out of the truck, but her son was carried out of the vehicle and swept downstream, Swanson said. There was no evacuation order in the area at the time. (Read more California stories.)

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