Sunday, January 14, 2018

Death Toll from Montecito Mudslides Rises to 20

This is from yesterday's paper, too true, "Hope fades for those still buried by Montecito mudslide."

And from just a little while ago, at LAT, "Death toll from Montecito mudslides climbs to 20, as authorities continue search for the missing":
The death toll in the Montecito mudslides climbed to 20 on Sunday, as officials continued to work to clear the mud and debris-strewn 101 Freeway, which has been closed indefinitely.

The body of the latest victim, who has not been identified, was discovered as authorities continued to search for several people still missing from the deluge, officials said. At least four other people are still unaccounted for.

On Saturday, search and rescue crews recovered the body of Morgan Corey, 25, who was found in debris near Olive Mill Road about 9 a.m., officials said.

At an afternoon news conference at the Earl Warren Fairgrounds, Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Eric Peterson spoke about the difficulties and challenges faced by emergency responders in their search for survivors.

"I have felt the heartbreak of knowing that even with all of your skill and all of your training and all of your planning, you couldn't save everybody," he said. "No one could have planned for the size and scope of what a 200-year storm immediately following our largest wildfire could bring."

A candlelight vigil for the victims of the mudslide is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday in the sunken gardens area outside the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

CalTrans crews continued to work Sunday to clear a two-mile stretch of the 101 Freeway in Montecito that was initially expected to re-open Monday. But officials said cleaning up one part of the freeway at Olive Mill Road was proving especially difficult.

Aided by private contractors and the Army Corps of Engineers, crews have been working around the clock to clear the freeway, a major north south artery that carries about 100,000 vehicles through the Central Coast each day.

The cleanup is focused on what CalTrans calls "dewatering" — using pumps to suck up the mud and rainwater. Once all the mud and debris is removed, the pavement and overpasses must be evaluated for structural safety, and then signs and guardrails reinstalled and lines repainted.

"It's really an overwhelming situation, and we don't want to give an estimate that isn't accurate," said Colin Jones, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, said about the freeway re-opening.

In addition to the 101, many local roads are blocked. Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Pat McElroy said the big push on Saturday was to clean roads in the Santa Barbara and Montecito areas in order to improve vehicular access.

"As it stands, we're still having to go in on foot in many areas," he said.

State Route 192, which cuts across the foothills, is also unsafe in places, and officials are trying to establish an alternative route as soon as possible.

With the 101 closed, hundreds of people have taken to traveling the coast by boat. Two sightseeing companies, Island Packers in Ventura and Condor Express in Santa Barbara, have worked together to turn their vessels into a ferry service between the cities.

Tickets on the Condor Express, a 75-foot catamaran that normally takes tourists whale watching, were in high demand last week, with many trips packed with the maximum 127 passengers, assistant manager Katie Fitts said.

The 90-minute trip over the water was significantly shorter than the more than four-hour detour on the 5 Freeway, and ferry passengers included firefighters, city workers and medical personnel from Cottage Hospital, she said.

"There are people trying to get to their families that have been struck by this tragedy and people trying to get to work … surgeons and nurses," Fitts said...
More at that top link.