STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

California mudslides: Death toll rises after searchers find body

Search and rescue crews found the body of a 25-year-old woman Saturday morning, raising the death toll from the Calif...

Posted: Jan 14, 2018 8:36 PM
Updated: Jan 14, 2018 8:36 PM

Search and rescue crews found the body of a 25-year-old woman Saturday morning, raising the death toll from the California mudslides to 19, authorities said.

The body of Morgan Corey of Montecito was found in mud and debris, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. Her 12-year-old sister, Sawyer, was found dead earlier this week.

NEW: 7 people still missing as searches continue

Sheriff says 18th deceased victim was found in his house

Five people are now missing, the sheriff said, and searchers continue to go through damaged and destroyed homes.

Emergency workers on the ground have doubled since Thursday, with about 1,250 trying to find and rescue those still trapped, Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson said.

The mudslides, which came in the early morning hours of Tuesday, destroyed dozens of homes. Those killed ranged in age from 3 to 89, and all lived in Montecito in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, authorities said.

Rescuers have searched frantically for the missing after rivers of mud and boulders flooded through neighborhoods in and near Montecito, an affluent seaside community east of Santa Barbara, demolishing homes and leaving roads impassable.

"In disaster circumstances, there have been many miraculous stories of people lasting many days. We certainly are searching for a miracle right now," Brown said Thursday.

"But realistically we suspect that we are going to continue to have discovery of people who were killed in this incident."

How to help the victims of the California mudslides

Evacuation zone increased

The immediate areas where people were killed are under mandatory evacuation, and officials increased the size of the evacuation zone Thursday.

"We know that this a terribly inconvenient development, but it is also incredibly necessary," Brown said.

"This entire area is a very active rescue and recovery and repair zone right now," he said.

He said the zone, which includes areas formerly under voluntary evacuation advisories, would be in effect for one week but that residents should plan for two.

Rescue workers are using helicopters and all-terrain vehicles in a search hampered by blocked roads and downed trees and power lines.

Billy Grokenberger lives in a part of Montecito that was under a voluntary evacuation order. He and his parents put belongings in three cars in case they decided to leave before the storm. They didn't.

"We had thought about leaving, but we had just had the fires," he said, referring to the recent wildfires that stripped the area of needed vegetation. "... We didn't take it serious(ly) enough."

On the morning of the storm, Grokenberger watched as 2 to 3 feet of water streamed down the street.

"(In) four minutes the water was through our wall and in our house, almost to the second story," he said.

"The house is destroyed, but you know, there's just so many others who are less fortunate. But we just feel lucky that we were able to get out and (are) alive."

Risk of mudslides for years

The storm hit hard between 3 and 6 a.m. Tuesday. The rain poured down on hillsides charred by recent wildfires, which burned vegetation that otherwise could make the terrain more resistant to mudslides.

The Thomas Fire -- the largest wildfire in California's recorded history -- burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties from early December into this month. It wasn't fully contained until this week.

Geologists and forecasters warned that intense rain could trigger deadly mudslides from the scorched areas.

And because of the fire, communities below the scarred terrain could remain at risk of mudslides for years, said Randall Jibson, a research geologist with the US Geological Survey.

Montecito may be at slightly less risk now, because this week's flooding already brought down vulnerable material.

"(But) no storm brings down everything that is susceptible. There's almost always more" that could come down, Jibson said.

What can be done? Long term, one option would be more basins to slow down storm runoff and collect debris.

Short term, making the public ready to evacuate during heavy rains is key, he said.

Montecito and Carpinteria are especially vulnerable to mudslides because the steep terrain in some places goes from thousands of feet above sea level to sea level in just a few miles, said Tom Fayram, a deputy public works director with Santa Barbara County.

West Lafayette
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 24°
Kokomo
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 22°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 23°
Fowler
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 24°
Williamsport
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 23°
Crawfordsville
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 22°
Frankfort
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 22°
Delphi
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 28°
Monticello
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 28°
Logansport
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 22°
A cold and breezy morning but a dry afternoon and evening expected
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1084488

Reported Deaths: 17386
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1425562217
Lake705171220
Allen64347862
Hamilton49481481
St. Joseph48135639
Elkhart39011536
Vanderburgh33874494
Tippecanoe29863271
Johnson26876463
Hendricks25548379
Porter24683380
Madison20440444
Clark19785275
Vigo18609308
LaPorte16638260
Monroe16237217
Delaware16230286
Howard16181310
Kosciusko13763162
Hancock12644184
Bartholomew12544188
Warrick11889189
Wayne11794264
Floyd11792225
Grant11484233
Morgan10134188
Boone9576120
Noble8921121
Henry8917163
Marshall8792146
Dearborn875798
Dubois8673138
Shelby7958127
Cass7907126
Lawrence7861182
DeKalb7416106
Jackson738093
Huntington7280107
Gibson6922118
Montgomery6830122
Harrison680696
Knox6779113
Steuben641185
Miami6384106
Whitley631160
Putnam626582
Clinton614176
Wabash5958108
Jasper591991
Jefferson5617102
Ripley540892
Adams527881
Daviess4964116
Scott475978
Wells462998
White459967
Greene458399
Clay452162
Decatur4491109
Jennings434666
Fayette429094
LaGrange413890
Posey398344
Washington380654
Randolph3770107
Fountain364962
Spencer353446
Fulton352270
Starke343672
Sullivan342454
Owen341676
Orange320270
Jay315450
Rush293332
Carroll287037
Franklin283544
Perry281453
Vermillion277557
Parke244930
Tipton244664
Pike241744
Blackford213944
Pulaski203158
Newton176552
Brown169850
Crawford167129
Benton160517
Martin149219
Switzerland143712
Warren131416
Union115416
Ohio90513
Unassigned0581

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events