Montecito storm death toll rises to 15

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed a total of 15 people have died in the flooding and mudslides that that struck the Montecito area early Tuesday morning in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire sweeping through the Santa Barbara County community.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown announced at a press conference on Tuesday that 13 people had died. The sheriff’s office raised the death toll to 15 Wednesday morning.

Following heavy rain, Montecito was covered in mud, debris, boulders, trees, downed power lines and destroyed vehicles. At least several homes in the community were destroyed as well.

“It looked like a World War I battlefield,” Brown said.

On Monday, authorities went door to door in mandatory evacuation zones notifying residents to leave. However, many residents ignored the orders.

“While some residents cooperated with the evacuations, many did not. Many chose to stay in place,” Brown said.

Between the hours of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Santa Barbara County dispatchers fielded more than 600 9-1-1 calls. Then over the course of the day, rescue crews airlifted more than 50 people to safety.

Dozens more were rescued from the ground, Brown said. Some individuals may still be missing.

Other areas of Santa Barbara County, including Summerland and Carpinteria, were also impacted by flooding and mudslides. The devastation, however, was mostly limited to Montecito.

Numerous roads remain covered in mud. Rescue teams have used military vehicles to transport some people pulled out of the devastation.

A family assistance center opened at the First Presbyterian Church at 21 E. Constance Street in Santa Barbara. There, people can seek assistance in searching for friends or relatives affected by the storm.