At least 3 missing after mudslides reported in Southern California

At least three people were reported missing Tuesday after a powerful winter storm drenching Southern California sent mud and debris streaming down wildfire-scarred hillsides and into several neighborhoods, some of which house lavish celebrity homes.

Multiple rescues were underway in Montecito, which is known for its star power, as the enclave boasts the mansions of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and several other celebrities, according to Mike Eliason, a public information officer with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Multiple rescues were underway in Montecito due to flood waters and debris flows.  (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County FD)

“Heavy rains have triggered massive runoff in the Montecito area,” Eliason wrote on Twitter. “Multiple rescues from vehicles and structures are underway. Access is difficult/delayed due to-at some locations-waist deep mudflow, trees, and wires down. Avoid the area.”

The Santa Barbara Fire Department told KEYT-TV there were so far three people unaccounted for, and three houses that were off their foundation that slipped down a hillside due to a mudslide.

There are rescues currently underway in Montecito, Carpinteria and in neighboring Ventura County, Santa Barbara County Officer of Emergency Management spokesperson Amber Anderson told Fox News.

Firefighters rescue people from flood waters and debris flows in California.  (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

A gas leak caused a structure to catch fire above Montecito, but is still unknown if anyone was injured in that blaze, according to Anderson.

In another Twitter post, Eliason posted pictures of firefighters rescuing two men and a woman from flood waters on Hot Springs Road in Montecito.

The Montecito enclave boasts the homes of several stars, such as Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.  (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County FD)

While it is still unclear if any celebrity homes were affected by the recent flooding and mudslides, several of those houses had close-calls when the Thomas Fire recently threatened the region. Winfrey, who recently fueled speculation over a possible 2020 presidential run after her speech at the Golden Globe Awards, said she returned to her home in Montecito on Jan 4.

“1st day back at home. Still smelling smoke.But grateful to have a home to come to and forever grateful to firefighters. #ThomasFire,” she tweeted.

The California Highway Patrol said US 101 northbound & southbound were closed due to flooding and debris flows in the Thomas Fire burn area, located north of Ventura and south of Santa Barbara.

The National Weather Service in Los Angeles said at least five inches of rainfall has fallen so far in the town of Ojai in Ventura County. The region about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles is located in the burn area of the Thomas Fire, which scarred the land last month and was the largest in California history.


Evacuations were ordered in those foothill neighborhoods Monday because of mudslide fears.

There was also a mudslide reported on La Tuna Canyon Road in Los Angeles, which caused several vehicles to get stuck in the mud, including a Los Angeles Police Department cruiser, according to FOX 11.

A mudslide on La Tuna Canyon Road in Los Angeles caused several vehicles to get stuck in the mud.  (FOX 11)

The first significant storm of the season soaked much of the state. Record-breaking rain fell on the San Francisco Bay region before the storm largely passed overnight, leaving diminishing showers there before dawn Tuesday. Stormy weather continued to the east in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada.

A yearslong drought eased in the state last spring, but Northern California had a dry start to winter and hardly any measurable rain fell in the south over the past six months. The extremely dry conditions and high winds last year led to some of the most destructive blazes on both ends of the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @travfed

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