Thirteen people are dead in California after a heavy overnight storm caused flooding and mudslides in Santa Barbara County, the Los Angeles Times reports. An additional 25 were injured, and photos of the California mudslides depict the horror that the state's residents — still reeling from the recent wave of wildfires — were confronted with on Tuesday.
The mudslides ruptured a gas line, swept homes off of their foundations and forced the closure of portion of the heavily-trafficked Highway 101 that runs through the state, according to NBC San Diego. The county ordered 7,000 people to evacuate on account of the disastrous conditions and set up a temporary shelter for evacuees at Santa Barbara City College, Reuters reported.
Likening the aftermath of the mudslides to "a World War I battlefield," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a press conference that emergency dispatchers received 600 calls between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. early Tuesday morning as the storm was pummeling the area. The recent wildfires in the state made the mudslides worse, as they burned away trees and shrubs that that normally hold the soil in place.
"I came around the house and heard a deep rumbling, an ominous sound I knew was ... boulders moving as the mud was rising," resident Thomas Tighe told CBS SFBayArea. "I saw two other vehicles moving slowly sideways down the middle of the street in a river of mud."
A spokesman for Santa Barbara County told the Santa Maria Times:
The intensity of the Thomas fire left our mountains with little or no vegetation to prevent the slopes from sliding. Hence, a critical watershed was burned, and following wildfire and the immediate approach of winter storms, the threat of flash floods and debris flows is now 10 times greater than before the fire — they can happen with little or no warning.
About 500 firefighters from across California are now involved in rescue efforts, according to KSBY. In many cases, locals have been airlifted from the region by helicopter, as blocked roads made ground rescues impossible.
"It's going to be worse than anyone imagined for our area," Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason told the LA Times. "Following our fire, this is the worst-case scenario."
The most significant of the road closures came when mud and debris poured onto Highway 101, forcing officials to shut down a 30-mile stretch of the highway. This closure effectively halted traffic between Santa Barbara and Ventura County, and the California Highway Patrol says it could be two days before it's reopened to traffic.
"It took about five seconds for all this to cover the 101," Eric Horowitz, who was driving on the 101 when the mudslides hit, told KTLA. "I'm lucky to be alive."
In addition to roads, three California theme parks were closed due to the mudslides: Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Legoland California in Carlsbad, and SeaWorld in San Diego.
Most of the damage affected Montecito, a wealthy community of around 8,000. However, Montecito was not one of the areas under mandatory evacuation orders, according to the Los Angeles Times; it was merely under voluntary evacuation due being further south from where the December wildfires struck.
That said, 50 people in Montecito have already been rescued, according to CNN, and more rescues are still under way.
Despite the destruction wrought in Santa Barbara, there have been some good news stories. A 14-year-old girl who was trapped under mud and debris for hours was rescued by firefighters after a rescue dog located her, ABC News reports. A second teenage girl in the same neighborhood was airlifted to safety from ankle-deep mud, and rescue crews were able to save six people and a dog after four houses in the area were destroyed by the mudslides.