Torrential rain triggered a series of catastrophic mudslides in the Montecito area of Santa Barbara on Tuesday morning, reducing buildings to rubble and killing at least 18 people.
Rescue teams are still working round the clock to locate seven missing individuals, aged between two and 62.
Last night, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office made a plea for information on any of the missing residents.
A statement said: “The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the community’s help in locating several missing persons related to the January 9, 2018 storm incident.
“The missing persons were reported by family and friends, and resided in areas that were heavily damaged during the storm and subsequent mudslides.”
Will there be another mudslide in Montecito?
Unfortunately for residents of the wildfire-ravaged strip of California, there is still a threat of more mudslides in the coming days.
Maps compiled by geospatial software company ESRI show there is the potential for further mudslides from Mission Canyon in the east, all the way to the Santa Clara River and down towards Ventura.
Current estimates suggest there are still more than 6,000 people in ‘moderate’ danger zones, more than 3,300 in ‘low’ danger zones and just less than 1,000 living in ‘high’ danger zones.
There are around 10,300 people and 3,850 families at risk in total, according to ESRI.
To make matters worse, there is not much anyone can do to prevent further mudslides from occurring, according to David Peterson, a professor of forest ecology at the University of Washington.
He told Fox News: “There’s nothing to prevent the magnitude of these events.”
As rescue operations continue, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown has warned that emergency workers are now looking for “miracle survivors.
Speaking on Thursday, he said: “Realistically we suspect we are going to have the discovery of more people killed in this incident.”
The majority of fatalities reported so far occurred in Montecito, the wealthiest district in Santa Barbara.
Among those impacted by the disaster was chat show host Ellen DeGeneres, who said everyone in the 9,000 strong “tight-knit” community had been affected.
She said: “It’s not just a wealthy community, it’s filled with a lot of different types of people from all backgrounds.
“And there are families missing, there are people who are missing family members. It’s catastrophic.
What caused the California mudslides?
The mudslides were caused when heavy rain dumped half an inch of water on Montecito in five minutes, while nearby Carpinteria received nearly an inch in 15 minutes.
The deluge came after Santa Barbara was subjected to some of the worst wildfires in California’s history.
The blaze wiped out much of the county’s vegetation, making it far more vulnerable to landslides.