Oprah's home damaged by California mudslides

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Meanwhile, Santa Barbara County officials reportedly chose not to send an emergency alert to people's mobile phones warning of mudslides until the destructive floods had already begun.

Helicopters were used to hoist more than 50 people to safety from roofs, where they scrambled to escape the mud or because debris had blocked roads and left them stranded.

"It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere, with huge boulders, rocks, down trees, power lines, wrecked cars - lots of obstacles and challenges for rescue personnel to get to homes", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

She stood in mud as she said she was "devastated" by the damage to her neighbour's house. A member of the Long Beach Search and Rescue team looks for survivors in a auto in Montecito, Calif., Jan. 9, 2018.

"Had we still had all the vegetation on the hills it would not have been as much of an issue", Targonia said. Celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Gigi Hadid were among those who live in the coastal city where the nearby 101 Freeway turned into a muddy river, reported ABC News.

"This has happened before but I think it's worse because of the fire, because of all the burnt".

The first rain in months caused mudslides when it hit ground that had been burned by December's huge wildfires.

The heavy rains have been risky because vegetation is missing - burned away by the Thomas Fire - that would normally help channel the water and mud flow. In the absence of healthy growing plants, the soil in the area is loose and easily moved by heavy rainfall, which leads to mudslides.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says the risk of flooding stays "significantly higher" for up to five years after a wildfire.

The walls of mud that roared through foothills and valleys sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the sprawling Los Padres National Forest also destroyed about 100 single-family homes, damaged hundreds of other buildings and injured 28 people, said the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. That water slicked off of fire-charred hillsides, downed blackened canyons, swelling rivers and creeks, flooding neighborhoods, roadways and homes. For many this was the second time in two months after fires ravaged the area last month.

2017 saw an abundance of natural disasters destroying communities, killing innocent civilians, while also causing significant trauma to the landscape.

"We have a yard to redo and hopefully our insurance will help out with that, but the people across from me, newer homes, gone", said Garrett Speirs, a 54-year-old artist who has been living in Montecito for 20 years.