Emotions run high in catastrophic flood zone where many are missing

Searchers include friends and family

The Montecito mudslides leave behind the loss of life and property. (John Palminteri/KEYT photo)
MONTECITO, Calif. - As the search for those missing in the recent massive Montecito mud slide continues, the reality of the crisis is surfacing with deep emotions.

"This is crazy.  This is not normal.  I've lived in Malibu,  I've lived through fires,  earthquakes and I have never seen anything like this.  This is devastating" said Linda LaBella who lives in the Romero Canyon area.

The small creek there grew to the size of two football fields in one area.  It was full of boulders and mud in just a few minutes after a strong rain cell hit early Tuesday morning. The massive flooding and destruction could be seen for miles.

Many roads were blocked by mounds of mud and boulders the size of trucks.  Much of the destructive flow came directly from the recently scarred hills after the Thomas fire.

Responding crews included Urban Search and Rescue teams from the Central Coast and Los Angeles. Their priority is to find missing people. Search dogs and special cameras were used throughout the debris fields.
The massive flooding and destruction turned one of the wealthiest communities in America,  Montecito into one of the most broken communities.

Gas lines were hissing on many streets, and twisted cars were upended.  Two were swept down to the Pacific Ocean.
" I had no idea that the side of the creek was taking away our neighborhood . We saw one of our neighbors airlifted out but sadly several people are missing,"  said Cathy Clemens who stood along East Valley Road in tears.

 Diane Brewer lived in a now-destroyed house recently with her friend Josie Gower.   Gower took a walk Monday night right next to San Ysidro creek  when it was empty and deep.  She was taking pictures and not talking about evacuating where she lived in a neighborhood off a private roadway.  Her address was in a voluntary evacuation zone.

Officials last Friday said there could only be a few minutes of warnings and in some cases "no warning at all" during the heavy downpour.

Brewer was back Wednesday looking at the fractured house. The garage was ripped off.  A large tree ad crushed the roof.  Brewer said Gower was upstairs but did not stay there during the storm.  Mud was found throughout the lower level of the house.  "Even if she would have stayed in the kitchen she would have been fine but she came down the stairs and opened the front door," she said.

Later in the day Brewer had what she believed was grim information about the tragic situation and was in private talks with Gower's son Hayden.

An official list of the deceased has not been released by Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown until there's positive information and a family member is notified. Additional coroners from out of the area have been called in to assist in this mass casualty incident.  The death toll is 17.  (NewsChannel 3 is waiting for official confirmation from the Santa Barbara County Coroner before releasing the names of those who have died.)

A missing persons list has been started on the KEYT website. It can be found at

Brewer was asking for permission to have someone use a drone in the search for Gower and a prominent local realtor also missing nearby, because of its unique access points in the tree and rock clogged canyon.

Hundreds  of people  around there were unable to get out during the flash flood because of piles of debris, and damaged streets. Special high profile military vehicles were called in to retrieve stranded residents.

 Doug Margerum, his wife and dog escaped a massive gas line fire and the floods. They drove out today after streets were reopened over 24 hours following the catastrophic event. "Getting out underneath those flames , they were so hot we couldn't believe what was happening.  The  thunderous rocks coming down the hill was scary enough,  then 400 foot flames. It was hotter than hell it was a burning inferno," said Margerum. "You should see our house,  a different landscaping.  You should see Casa de Maria. It's gone, absolutely  gone."










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