Rivers of mud leave at least 13 dead in California

Last month I wrote about the massive wildfires that spread around Los Angeles. This week, Southern California is getting lots of rain and that means hillsides that were once held together by trees and bushes are now turning into rivers of mud and flowing through neighborhoods. CNN reports at least 13 people have been killed.

Heavy rains unleashed destructive rivers of mud and debris in Southern California on Tuesday — leaving at least 13 people dead, destroying homes and spurring rescues as the flooding forced heavily traveled roads to close.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the death toll could rise. Officials said many of the deaths are believed to be in the coastal Montecito area, where mudflows and floodwater have inundated areas downstream from where the Thomas Fire burned thousands of acres last month.

Authorities continued to search for the missing. Earlier, fire crews rescued about 50 people in the Montecito area, officials said.

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

The Associated Press interviewed one man who ushered his family onto the roof when he heard the sound of boulders pounding down the street. The next morning he discovered someone had been trapped in the flow of mud and left pinned against his neighbors home:

In the dark of night, Thomas Tighe saw two vehicles slowly being swept away by a river of mud and debris flowing down the road in front of his house in Montecito, California. Daybreak brought a more jarring scene: a body pinned against his neighbor’s home by a wall of muck…

“I came around the house and heard a deep rumbling, an ominous sound that I knew was the boulders moving as the mud was rising,” he said.

Two of his cars that had been in the driveway already were swept away, and he saw two other vehicles drifting down the road.

With his street thick with rushing mud it was too late to heed the area’s voluntary evacuation advisory so he woke his wife and children and prepared to get them up to the roof.

“I tried not to panic them, but I panicked them,” Tighe said.

First responders spent 6 hours freeing a terrified 14-year-old girl from a pile of muck and debris that had once been her house. Hers was one of several homes that were swept off their foundation by the mudslides:

This CBS News clip gives an overview of some of the damage:

More video from the LA Times:

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