18 found dead as rescuers dig through mudslide debris

The death toll from mudslides and flooding in Montecito has risen to 18 after crews found the body of an 87-year-old man on Friday, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

Previously listed as missing, search and rescue teams located Francis Bleckel inside his Monteceto residence. Currently, officials are reporting eight people as missing.

According to authorities, the number of missing persons is anticipated to fluctuate significantly. The sheriff’s office is continuing to receive reports of missing individuals. Many of the cases are promptly solved, but others require additional investigation.

Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Ventura is slated to remain closed indefinitely as the cleanup continues. CalTrans is asking drivers to use Highway 46 to Interstate 5 because of congestion on the two-lane Highway 166.

Rescue teams are continuing to search buildings and debris flows for trapped victims. Large amounts of mud and debris are making access and progress challenging.

A total of 1,250 personnel from agencies ranging from local fire departments to the U.S. Navy are participating in the storm response.