National News

Mudslides Close Part of Highway 101 in California

Posted January 14, 2018 12:20 p.m. EST

The death toll in the mudslides that buried parts of Montecito, California, in muck and boulders has risen to 19, officials said, and portions of Highway 101 will remain closed indefinitely.

“No one could have planned for the size and scope of what a 200-year storm, immediately following our largest wildfire, would bring,” Eric Peterson, chief of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said at a news conference on Saturday.

Road crews are working 12-hour shifts to reopen the highways, said Jim Shivers, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, known as Caltrans.

Highway 101, a major artery on the Central Coast, is closed to northbound traffic from the border of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to the city of Santa Barbara.

The highway is also closed to southbound traffic from South Milpas Street in the city of Santa Barbara to Padaro Lane, near Summerland, a beach town in Santa Barbara County, the department said.

“This is a major undertaking for every agency, including ours,” Shivers said. “I wish I could say when Highway 101 will reopen. I can tell you that it will, but I don’t have a specific date or time at the present.”

He said road crews were confronting a “massive amount of water” on the highway. “Once we can get that water to recede, we feel very confident that we can bring in the available equipment on standby, get down to the bottom, and move the heavy material out of the way,” he said.

He did not have an estimate about when State Route 192 would reopen. It is closed from the junction of State Route 144 in Santa Barbara to the junction of State Route 150.

Capt. Cindy Pontes of the California Highway Patrol told travelers to consider using either Amtrak or ferries as an alternate route of transportation.

“Again, we just ask for your patience,” she said. “We know that emotions are running really high right now and people are really upset about the 101 being closed. We are, too. We want it to be open because it has an effect on everyone.”

The mudslides have killed at least 19, destroyed 65 homes and damaged hundreds more.

A search team discovered the 19th victim, Morgan Christine Corey, 25, on Saturday, officials said. Her 12-year-old sister, Sawyer Corey, was also among those who died.

The number of people missing has decreased to five from 43, Sheriff Bill Brown of Santa Barbara County said. Officials are continuing to search for victims.