California mudslides: Death toll rises to 17

Heartbroken Hadid tweeted an image of the devastation that swept through Montecito

Anticipating the floods, Santa Barbara County officials issued a mandatory evacuation order on Sunday evening for roughly 7,000 residents, but most chose to stay in their homes.

A stew of floodwater, mud, tree limbs and other debris covered the highway in Montecito, making it impassable.

Brown said some of those people could have left the area before or after the mudslides or may simply be out of touch with people concerned about them.

"Two cars were missing from his driveway and he watched two others slowly move sideways down the middle of the street 'in a river of mud'". Officials in Sonoma County - where over half of the fatalities occurred - had decided not to deploy the federal Wireless Emergency Alert system, and some survivors of the 21 blazes later said they were inadequately warned. The disaster began early Tuesday morning, around 2:30 a.m. PST, when rains began dislodging both boulders and cascades of mud, sending them pouring down area hillsides. He also spoke about the damage. A spokeswoman early in the day sent a shudder through the community when she said the number of people unaccounted for had surged from 16 to 48.

The downpour fell in areas charred by recent wildfires, which burned vegetation that otherwise could make the terrain more resistant to mudslides. More than 40 people died in October when fires swept through the wine country.

The death toll from devastating mudslides in affluent communities along a stretch of Southern California coastline rose to 17 on Wednesday after two more bodies were recovered, the local sheriff said, and the number of people missing also climbed to 17.

At least six homes were "wiped away from their foundations" by mudflow and debris, Santa Barbara County fire spokesman Mike Eliason said.

Heavy rain on Tuesday, which followed 10 months of drought, sent sticky mud and debris flowing from the hills into Montecito and other towns in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles. Burned-over zones are especially susceptible to destructive mudslides because scorched earth doesn't absorb water well and the land is easily eroded when there are no shrubs.

As "founder and benefactor of classical Catholic schools", Rohter played "a pivotal role in the lives of countless young Catholic students - students who came to a deeper knowledge and love of Christ because of his vision, commitment, and generosity", added McLean in his statement, posted on the college's website.

Officials say Highway 121 between Wild Horse Valley Road and Wooden Valley Road remains closed.

Hundreds of rescuers are combing through the wreckage of an area of southern California that was engulfed by mudslides.

But only an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people in a mandatory evacuation area of Santa Barbara County heeded the warning, authorities said.

A storm that slammed a California coastal community is over.

Muck-spattered searchers from around the state slogged through knee-deep ooze, poking long poles into the mud to probe for victims.

In Montecito, rescuers scoured through mounds of mud, furniture and fallen trees to search for those trapped.

By Tuesday night at least 13 people were confirmed dead, at least 25 were injured and at least 50 had to be rescued by helicopter.

They were assisted by firefighters and search-and-rescue teams who continued to try to account for the missing.

Former US tennis No 1 Jimmy Connors had to be rescued from home by helicopter and chat show queen Oprah Winfrey prayed for her neighbours.

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