Rescue Crews Make Their Way Into Worst-Hit Mudslide Areas

Death toll rises to at least 15 in Southern California mudslides

Search and rescue teams are looking for dozens of people who are still missing after this week's torrential rains caused mudslides in Southern California, authorities said.

Heavy rain in Santa Barbara County last night led to severe mudslides travelling down hillsides, destroying properties, and restricting travel.

Brown believes that the death toll could continue to rise as mud and water continues to destroy these counties. The threat of mudslides prompted the county to order 7,000 residents to leave their homes before the rains came and to urge 23,000 others to evacuate voluntarily. The California Highway Patrol shut down the northbound 101 at Route 126 in Ventura, and at Seacliff, and the southbound 101 was closed just south of Santa Barbara at Milpas.

Search dogs, helicopters and thermal imaging equipment are being used to find victims or survivors, with rescuers battling through waist-deep mud in some areas. Firefighters struggled through the mud to pull a muck-covered 14-year-old girl out of the ruinds of a home in Montecito, norrthwest of Los Angeles. About 300 people were stranded in a canyon.

Death toll rises to at least 15 in Southern California mudslides

At one point on Tuesday, at least two dozen people were missing, but Brown said later in the day that it was not clear how many had been located.

The county set up an evacuation shelter at Santa Barbara City College, where some people showed up drenched in mud, and also provided a place for people to take their animals.

The timing of these mudflows comes nearly 13 years to the day of a deadly landslide that struck Ventura County in 2005 that killed 10 people and damaged or destroyed about three dozen homes. With the wildfires leaving behind a waxy layer of debris that made it hard for water to infiltrate the ground, the downpour caused flash floods in the fire-scarred Santa Ynez Mountains. The fire started more than a month ago. Many residents, if they were lucky, were able to make it to their roofs after hearing "deep rumbling" from higher ground that sent boulders tumbling down with the rising mud, which effortlessly swallowed vehicles and tore several houses from their foundations.

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