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 gigantic 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, and dozens more were rescued on the ground, including a mud-caked 14-year-old girl pulled from a collapsed Montecito home where she had been trapped for hours.
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 arrived suddenly and with a sound some likened to a freight train as water carrying rocks and trees washed away cars and trashed homes, smashing some into piles of lumber and filling others waist-deep in mud.
Brown, “It looked like a World War I battlefield,” “It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere, with huge boulders, rocks, down trees, power lines, wrecked cars — lots of obstacles and challenges for rescue personnel to get to homes.”