Until evacuated itself, Montecito Episcopal church served as shelter in CA mudslides

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Mudslides in southern California have killed at least 13 as storms hit soil left bare by last year’s wildfires. Montecito has been particularly hard hit. From the Washington Post:

All 13 bodies were recovered near Montecito, a coastal community north of Los Angeles, where mudflows carried houses off their foundations and rose to people’s waists. A storm of mud descended on the town with no warning, officials said, surrounding houses and carrying a washing machine down one block.

[Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill] Brown called Tuesday a somber day, and said he expects the number of deaths to increase as officials continue to look for people who are missing and unaccounted for.

“Obviously the focus is to get to people who may be injured . . . to get as many of those people evacuated from their homes as possible,” he said.

Montecito and Carpinteria were the county’s worst-hit communities as of Tuesday afternoon, said Amber Anderson, a spokeswoman for Santa Barbara’s incident management team. Evacuations had been ordered in both towns, she said — but only a small fraction of residents actually left.

An unnamed county fire official:

“This whole mountain has been burned, and anytime water hits it’s not shedding into any bushes because they’re all burned. Any water that hits the surface is coming at us and causing debris and mud to flow. It’s probably going to happen again and again… This is just the first storm. It’s probably going to happen again and again.”

All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Montecito was serving as a shelter and triage location until it was evacuated at 2:00 today because of loss of power. From The Independent:

Captain Gilbert Cash with the City of Santa Barbara Fire Department said the church opened its doors early Tuesday morning, with non-injured evacuees directed to the parish hall and injured residents transferred to the chapel.

Ten injured were transported elsewhere after treatment, but prior to the church’s evacuation,

…around 40 non-injured evacuees remain[ed] at the church. “A lot of people still feel trapped,” said Independent reporter Keith Hamm at the scene. “They can’t leave northbound or southbound.”

Captain Cash advised Montecito residents worried about the rain forecast for Tuesday afternoon and the potential for additional mudflows to make their way to the church. “If you can’t shelter in place, come here,” he said.

An update later in the day from the Santa Barbara Noozhawk:

…the church evacuated everyone as of 2 p.m. since the area has no power and the water district issued a boil water notice to customers, the church said in a Facebook post.

The entire neighborhood, including All Saints, was evacuated by military vehicles to the Vons shopping center on Coast Village Road to meet family and friends or to take a bus to the Santa Barbara City College evacuation center.

According to the church, authorities said the neighborhood “will be without power for an extended period of time, perhaps weeks. All roads in our area are impassable and may be for weeks.”

This comes weeks after the wildfires in December; the church’s response to the fires, from prayers and messages to being a resource for evacuees, can be followed on its Facebook page.

Photo via Accuweather/SBCFireInfo

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