January 11-REPORTING FROM MONTECITO, CA- Teams of rescuers waded through hillsides blanketed by mud and debris looking for victims of mudflows that killed at least 17 people as the full scope of California's deadliest flooding event in several decades came into grim focus.
A last-minute decision to take in a punk rock concert in Los Angeles kept Justin Deckard and Alyssa Saldana safely away from the pounding storm that wreaked death and devastation, but left them trapped in their auto when they tried to return to the University of California, Santa Barbara, for final exams.
The mudslide areas are under mandatory evacuation orders for at least a week, but the sheriff has cautioned residents to plan to be away for a full two weeks.
The evacuation order came as authorities announced a spike in the number of residents still unaccounted for. But later in the morning, they said the large number was due to a clerical error and the number of missing was eight.
"I ignored that inner voice, which I never do", Troy recalled Thursday from another Red Cross shelter, this one at Santa Barbara City College, which has been sanctuary for as many as 58 people since Tuesday, when the mountains gave way above Montecito. "We hope there's not going to be any more".
"He said so many times that after his passing, 'Make sure everyone prays for my soul.' We will, Roy!"
"I said, 'We gotta get out of here.' As I turned the vehicle around and I looked in my rear-view mirror, I saw huge boulders the size of my auto rolling on the street behind me, and I went, 'Mother of God, this is like Independence Day, ' so I took off back down to the house", he said.
About 500 law enforcement officers and firefighters combed mud-covered neighborhoods, using dogs, 14 helicopters and thermal imaging equipment, officials said.
There was nothing left on the land to stop the wall of water as new video shows the mudslide's power and speed.
The flash flooding happened on Tuesday after the first rain in months hit ground that had been scorched in December's widespread wildfires.
Associated Press Writer Krysta Fauria contributed to this story from Montecito. "(It) surrounded the house, 2 to 3 feet".
"What they were was a bunch of trees that were being snapped by the mud and boulders and debris that were sliding down Toro Canyon", said Jonathan Reichlen, 45, who owns an urban landscaping company.
Montecito is home to many Hollywood stars, and they were feeling the pain. "I feel like I escaped". "So again, we evacuated because they feared mudslides", the host said. Tige said he was checking the downspouts of his home around 3:30 a.m. when the storm picked up.
The oldest victim swept away in a California mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before.
Between Ventura and Carpinteria, a 30-mile stretch of USA 101 remained closed in both directions Thursday because of flooding and mud on the roadway.
Bulldozers have been used to clear roads of tangled trees, muck and boulders as trucks hauled off floodwaters siphoned off US Highway 101, the crippled coastal route connecting Santa Barbara to Ventura.