Cal­i­for­nia mud­slides death toll rises to 19

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - NATION - BY MICHAEL BAL­SAMO

The death toll from the mud­slides in a Cal­i­for­nia coastal town rose to 19 on Satur­day but a man who had also been on the list of miss­ing per­sons was lo­cated alive, author­i­ties said.

The body of Mor­gan Chris­tine Corey, 25, was found in mud and de­bris in Mon­tecito, Santa Bar­bara County Sher­iff Bill Brown said. Her 12-yearold sis­ter, Sawyer, had been found dead ear­lier.

"We ask that you keep this dev­as­tated fam­ily in your thoughts and prayers," Brown said.

Another per­son who had been on the list of miss­ing, Del­bert Weltzin, 62, was found alive and well, Brown said without elab­o­rat­ing on the cir­cum­stances.

The two de­vel­op­ments re­duced the num­ber of miss­ing from seven to five.

"While ev­ery hour it re­mains less likely that we will find any­one alive, there is al­ways hope," the sher­iff said.

The army of searchers and re­cov­ery work­ers in Mon­tecito swelled to more than 2,000 five days af­ter a pow­er­ful storm swept in from the Pa­cific and dumped a del­uge on moun­tain slopes above the coastal en­clave that were burned bare by a huge wild­fire in De­cem­ber.

The back­break­ing work went on in the sum­mer­like weather that has made the stretch of Santa Bar­bara County coast about 90 miles north­west of Los An­ge­les a haven for the wealthy, celebri­ties and tourists.

"We have to do what­ever it takes," said Capt. Tom Hen­z­gen, leader of a team from the Los An­ge­les Fire De­part­ment.

Long-range fore­casts gave the crews about a week be­fore the next chance of rain — and po­ten­tial new mud­slides — al­though the pre­cip­i­ta­tion was ex­pected to be dis­or­ga­nized and light. Another sys­tem was pos­si­ble two days later.

Crews worked through­out the day Satur­day to clear de­bris basins and of­fi­cials said there was still a lot more work to be done. But Tom Fayram, the deputy di­rec­tor of the county's flood con­trol district, said the crews were mak­ing great progress and he was con­fi­dent that at least a base level of wa­ter would be able to pass through the creek chan­nels.

Much of the com­mu­nity of about 9,000 re­mained un­der manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­ders, even un­scathed ar­eas, as crews both re­moved de­bris and worked to re­store wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion, power and gas. All warn­ings and or­ders for neigh­bor­ing Summerland and Carpin­te­ria were lifted.

Brown urged any­one in manda­tory evac­u­a­tion ar­eas to leave im­me­di­ately.

"It is not a safe or con­ve­nient place to be right now," he said.

Tanker trucks sucked muddy wa­ter from flooded sec­tions of U.S. 101, the only di­rect ma­jor artery be­tween Los An­ge­les and the Santa Bar­bara re­gion.

The Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion aban­doned an es­ti­mate of re­open­ing the high­way on Mon­day and said it was not known when the clo­sure would be lifted.

Am­trak, which be­gan restor­ing rail ser­vice two days af­ter the flood, was adding cars to trains be­cause of heavy de­mand. Two boat com­pa­nies that nor­mally take tourists out to Chan­nel Is­lands Na­tional Park and on whale-watch­ing ex­cur­sions were fer­ry­ing peo­ple be­tween the Ven­tura and Santa Bar­bara har­bors.


Crews pump mud on High­way 101 af­ter a mud­slide Satur­day in Mon­tecito, Calif. Most of the peo­ple of Mon­tecito, a town usu­ally known for its seren­ity and lux­ury, were un­der or­ders to stay out of town as gas and power were ex­pected to be shut off Satur­day...

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