Montecito residents begin to decide whether to evacuate or stay in place with possibility of losing all power, water and gas. Those who chose to stay during the storm must now face closed roads in their effort to continue normal life. (Jan. 12)
MONTECITO, Calif. — Residents of this beleaguered town look up and wonder aloud: “Haven’t we suffered enough?”
But they’re not looking at the sky for answers.
Instead, they’re staring east at the sharp peaks of the Los Padres National Forest, which were scorched by December’s Thomas Fire and then denuded by heavy rains that sent mudslides slamming through the town early Tuesday morning. The fire destroyed more than 1,000 structures and is blamed for at least two deaths.
Then the mudslide destroyed at least 65 more homes, damaged 462 others and killed at least 18 people. On Saturday, six people were still missing.
“It’s just so overwhelming,” said Bob Santoro, who spent Friday digging out a friend’s home. “People lost loved ones, their homes, their cars, their friends, entire neighborhoods in a matter of moments. That makes it all the more incomprehensible.”
The Thomas Fire, the worst wildfire in recorded state history, was only officially brought under control Friday. Crews are still trying to dig the 10,000-person town out from the mudslides that blocked roads, damaged bridges and once again forced dozens of businesses to close in this bucolic seaside community that counts Oprah and Ellen as homeowners.
Most residents have been ordered to leave and told it might be weeks before they can return as workers clear the roads and search for buried bodies.