At least 13 people are dead and more than 20 are injured in California from weather-related incidents, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said today. The southern part of the state has been drenched with severe rain just weeks after several fires tore through the area.
Flash flooding, debris flow and mudslides are punishing the communities hit hard by the Thomas and La Tuna fires, prompting “dozens and dozens” of rescues on the ground, a spokesperson from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department told ABC News.
Many more are feared to be dead and buried beneath the mud, a California fire crew who has conducted up to 70 rescues alone told ABC News Tuesday afternoon.
One of those killed was Michael Van Hecke, the founder headmaster of the St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, who dedicated his life to helping others, The Associated Press reported.
Montecito alone saw heavy rainfall in a short amount of time. About a third of the rain that has fallen in the last 24 hours in Montecito fell in just 5 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.
Because hundreds of thousands of acres were charred in the fires, the influx of water has nowhere to go.
Some homes in Montecito’s affluent community have been ripped from their foundations as a result of the torrential conditions. Several dozen homes have been destroyed or damaged, officials said.
Local fire officials reported rescuing several people in the area, including a mother and her daughter who were caked in mud. About two dozen people in Santa Barbara County are unaccounted for, officials said.
The Claffey family in Carpinteria was forced to evacuate its home last month. After moving back in, family members were told to evacuate again because of the rain.
“If our house was flooded it would be devastating. Absolutely devastating,” Maureen Claffey told ABC News.
Another family told ABC News that they witnessed neighbors floating away from their homes on mattresses and others holding on to trees for hours in a whirlpool of frigid mud.