MONTECITO, Calif. -- At least 13 people were killed and dozens of homes were swept away or heavily damaged Tuesday as downpours sent mud and boulders roaring down hills stripped of vegetation by a wildfire that raged in Southern California last month.
Helicopters were used to pluck more than 50 people from rooftops because downed trees and power lines blocked roads. Dozens more were rescued on the ground, including a mud-caked 14-year-old girl from a collapsed Montecito home where she had been trapped for hours.
"I thought I was dead for a minute there," the girl could be heard saying on video posted by KNBC-TV before she was taken away on a stretcher.
Most deaths were believed to have occurred Montecito, a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres, said Santa Barbara County spokesman David Villalobos.
Twenty people were hospitalized and four were described as "severely critical" by Dr. Brett Wilson of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
An unknown number were unaccounted for and authorities were trying to determine if they were missing or just hadn't contacted family members.
The search for survivors continued into the evening, though Wilson noted that their conditions would deteriorate if they got wet.
The mud was unleashed in the dead of night by flash flooding in the steep, fire-scarred Santa Ynez Mountains. 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.
The torrent of mud early Tuesday swept away cars and destroyed several homes, reducing them to piles of lumber. Photos posted on social media showed waist-deep mud in living rooms.
Authorities had been bracing for the possibility of catastrophic flooding because of heavy rain in the forecast for the first time in 10 months.
Evacuations were ordered beneath recently burned areas of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. But only an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people in a mandatory evacuation area of Santa Barbara County heeded the warning, authorities said.
Cars were washed off roads, and one was deposited upside down in a tangle of tree limbs. In Los Angeles, a police cruiser got swamped in tire-deep mud.
A stretch of U.S. 101 that connects Ventura County to Santa Barbara County looked like a muddy river clogged with trees and other debris. A kayak was marooned in the flotsam, and a Range Rover was buried up to its bumpers.
Some of the worst damage was on Montecito's Hot Springs Road, where the unidentified girl was rescued and residents had been under a voluntary evacuation warning. Large boulders were washed out of a previously dry creek bed and scattered across the road.
The worst of the rainfall occurred in a 15-minute span starting at 3:30 a.m. Montecito got more than a half-inch in five minutes, while Carpinteria received nearly an inch in 15 minutes.
The first confirmed death was Roy Rohter, a former real estate broker who founded St. Augustine Academy in Ventura. The Catholic school's headmaster, Michael Van Hecke, announced the death and said Rohter's wife was injured by the mudslide.
Montecito is beneath the scar left by a wildfire that broke out Dec. 4 and became the largest ever recorded in California. It spread over more than 440 square miles and destroyed 1,063 homes and other structures. It continues to smolder deep in the wilderness.
Information for this article was contributed by John Antczak, Michael Balsamo, Brian Melley and Alina Hartounian of The Associated Press.
Jeff Gallup of Carpinteria, Calif., carries his bicycle through a muddy road Tuesday after heavy rain sent mud and boulders down hillsides in Southern California. At least 13 people were killed and others trapped by the muddy debris that tore houses from their foundations.
A Section on 01/10/2018
Print Headline: California mudslides collapse homes, kill 13 people