The death toll from mudslides in California has increased to 17 with another 8 people still missing. One of the victims who lost their lives in the disaster was David Cantin, the father of 14-year-old Lauren Cantin who was rescued after a six-hour effort by first responders on Tuesday. Lauren’s older brother, 16, is one of the people still missing.
A GoFundMe page has been created to support Lauren and her family. Her house was completely washed away in the mudslide. CBS News published a story on the rescue efforts for the 8 people still missing:
Hundreds of rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the. Seventeen people were confirmed dead and eight were missing. Earlier, the Santa Barbara City Fire Department incorrectly reported 48 people were missing, citing a clerical error…
Rescue crews worked up to 12 hours a day and risked stepping on nails or shattered glass, or being exposed to raw sewage, or dealing with leaking gas, Page said.
“We’ve gotten multiple reports of rescuers falling through manholes that were covered with mud, swimming pools that were covered up with mud,” said Anthony Buzzerio, a Los Angeles County fire battalion chief. “The mud is acting like a candy shell on ice cream. It’s crusty on top but soft underneath, so we’re having to be very careful.”
Residents of the area received multiple warnings of possible flash floods on social media and by email, however only an estimated 10-15% of residents evacuated prior to the worst of the storm. In a separate story, CBS reports an emergency text system was not used until about 10-minutes before the rain reached its peak:
The department hesitated to use a cell phone emergency alert system, and they waited until 3:50 a.m. Tuesday to push out the alert, roughly 10 minutes ahead of the worst flooding.
Santa Barbara County emergency manager Jeff Gater told the Los Angeles Times that he waited because, “If you cry wolf, people stop listening.”
Tighe says there was no mandatory evacuation for her community.
“We would have evacuated,” she said. “Everybody in my neighborhood would have. We all are families, we have kids, and if that was dictated to us we would have followed the rules.”
In hindsight (always 20/20) this decision certainly looks like a mistake. The potential for mudslides in the area was known to be great because so much of the landscape had been razed by wildfires last month. Ground usually held together by tree roots and smaller plants was suddenly just a mass of mud and boulders which residents describe as sounding like a freight train.
One witness claimed to have helped rescue a baby buried in four feet of mud. He says the baby was immediately taken to a hospital.
Finally, this video of a Toyota Prius being swept away as a river of mud began flowing down a street in Burbank gives you an idea of how powerful these slides can be. It’s difficult to see if there is anyone at the wheel but the fact that the windshield wipers are going makes me think someone was inside: