At least 15 people are dead after heavy rainfall ravaged parts of Southern California on Tuesday, leaving mudslides in its wake.
An additional 25 people have been reported injured, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Authorities say they rescued 50 people via the air on Tuesday, as well as dozens more on the ground.
Searches for more survivors are ongoing, with authorities unsure of just how many people are actually missing.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department said it received more than 600 calls requesting assistance as the storm hit early Tuesday morning, CNN reported.
Ventura County got more than 5.5 inches of rain, the National Weather Service said.
“It’s going to be worse than anyone imagined for our area,” Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said Tuesday. “Following our fire, this is the worst-case scenario.”
The storm hit between 3 and 6 a.m. local time, and roused people out of bed as they tried desperately to cling to safety.
The flash flood caused sudden mudslides throughout much of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, an area especially susceptible due to wildfires that have recently burned through the Santa Ynez Mountains. The scorched ground does not absorb water well, and the lack of vegetation leaves the land vulnerable to erosion, according to KCAL.
The mudslides also struck an area that was not under mandatory evacuation.
Montecito resident Ben Hyatt described seeing the mudslide rip through his neighbor’s house.
“Apparently, one of their cars ended (up) in their backyard. We have neighbors at (the) top of the street that evacuated to their roof,” Hyatt said in a statement to CNN.
Meanwhile, Tyler McManigal was informed Tuesday that his father and brother had been swept away by the storm.
McManigal is currently stationed in Hawaii for the Navy.
He told the LA Times that when the flash flood started, it woke his 64-year-old father, who then rushed to wake his other son, Connor. The pair was unable to make it out of their home safely, and the mud carried away the house — with father and son inside.
Connor was found about three-quarters of a mile away, and is said to be doing well. However, McManigal’s father is still missing.
Many others have been affected by the natural disaster as well.
Roy Rohter, the founder of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, has been reported dead.
A pillar of the local Catholic community, Rohter was identified by authorities at Thomas Aquinas College, where his daughter is an alumness and Rohter himself was a generous benefactor.
Michael Van Hecke, headmaster of St. Augustine, said Rohter “has done so much for so many people and pro-life and Catholic education causes. … Thousands have been blessed by the Rohters’ friendship and generosity.”
Also making Montecito and Carpinteria susceptible to mudslides is the steep terrain.
Some areas drop thousands of feet to sea level in “a matter of just a few miles,” said Tom Fayram, a deputy public works director with Santa Barbara County.
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