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Mudslides in California


A very heavy rain storm in the middle of the night on January 9th has caused serious mudslides in Santa Barbara County, California. So far 15 people have died because of the mudslides. Rescue workers are still looking for more people who might be trapped, hurt, or dead.

Houses damaged by mudslides - 2005.
Houses damaged by mudslides – 2005. (Source: Photo by John Shea / FEMA News Photo.)

This hilly area of California has had many weather problems in the last year. These mudslides were the result of those problems. The area had not had any rain for months so everything was very dry. This led to wildfires a month ago. When the heavy rain hit the dry ground covered with ash from the wildfires, the mudslides started. It happened very suddenly. Some areas got an inch of rain in fifteen minutes.

A town called Montecito was hit hard. There are many hills and valleys there, and gravity pulled the rivers of mud to the low parts. In some places the mud was waist high. The damage covered a large area. About thirty miles of U.S. Highway 101 has been closed because of the mudslides.

Car and houses surrounded by mud in mudslide - 2005.
Car and houses surrounded by mud in mudslide – 2005.

Because the mud is so thick, the mudslides have a lot of force. Some people reported seeing large boulders and cars swept away by the mud. Some houses were even moved. A few people who were caught in the mud got trapped and could not get out. Other people climbed on their roof to escape.

Some of the deaths and injuries did not have to happen. People living in dangerous areas were told to leave their homes, but most people did not leave.


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