Southern California recovers from flooding and mudslides while the North is putting out flames

Digging out mud

Important Takeaways:

  • California Digging From Mud Left By Tropical Storm Hilary
  • While northern Californians fight wildfires, southern Californians are recovering—particularly those in the drier parts of the Golden State—after receiving heavy rainfall from their first tropical storm in more than 80 years.
  • Damaged roads and mud-deep vehicles ill Californians after Tropical Storm Hilary and its remnants dropped several inches of rain to areas that are typically dry.
  • The damage across southern California after the storm’s passage has caused road closures and power outages and pushed community clean-up efforts.
  • Riverside County—where Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs are located—saw about 1.5 inches of rain recently, causing I-10 freeway flooding and excessive damage that prompted the county’s chief executive to proclaim a local emergency.
  • Palm Springs International Airport recorded 3.23 inches of rain in flooding unseen in the area since 2019, the National Weather Service says.

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Search for survivors of devastating California mudslide enters third day

Damaged properties are seen after a mudslide in Montecito, California, U.S. January 11, 2018.

By Alex Dobuzinskis

MONTECITO, Calif. (Reuters) – The search for survivors from a devastating Southern California mudslide that has killed at least 17 people moved into its third day on Friday, with some 700 rescue workers expecting to find more dead victims.

Triggered by heavy rains, the massive slide struck before dawn on Tuesday, when a wall of mud and debris cascaded down hillsides that were denuded last month by wildfires, including the Thomas Fire, the largest blaze in the state’s history.

“Realistically we suspect we are going to have the discovery of more people killed in this incident,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a Thursday news briefing, adding that he was hoping to find “miracle” survivors.

Brown said 43 people remain missing, although some may just be out of communication.

In one of the hardest hit areas, the affluent seaside community of Montecito, the devastation wrought by the slide and the gruesome undertaking faced by emergency crews was evident.

Neighborhoods were littered with uprooted trees and downed power lines, and front yards in homes filled with mud were strewn with boulders.

Elsewhere, cars carried away by the flow were perched on mounds of earth and mangled garage doors crushed by the mud rested at odd angles.

The cause of death for all 17 victims who perished will be listed as multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office said in a statement on Thursday.

The dead victims range in age from three to 89.

Josephine Gower, 69, died when she opened the door to her home, her son, Hayden Gower, told NBC station KSBY. Her daughter-in-law Sarah Gower confirmed Gower’s death in a Facebook post. Her body was found that night, near a highway hit by the slide.

“I told her to stay on the second floor, but she went downstairs and opened the door and just got swept away,” Hayden Gower said. “I should have just told her to leave. You just don’t even think that this is possible.”

The sheriff’s office also expanded the evacuation zone in the Montecito area on Thursday, as traffic on the already-clogged roads is hindering efforts by rescue and repair crews to access the devastation.

Rescue workers in helicopters and high-wheeled military vehicles, some with search dogs, were deployed in the hunt for the missing in a disaster zone littered with the remnants of hundreds of damaged or destroyed homes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) granted a request on Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown for expanded financial aid that was first allocated for the Thomas Fire, the governor’s office said in a statement.

“This declaration ensures that federal funds are available for emergency response and eligible disaster recovery costs,” the governor’s statement said.

(Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, Chris Kenning in Chicago, Gina Cherelus and Peter Szekely in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Catherine Evans)

What is left when Peru’s flood waters recede

A chair stands in mud at the home of Francisco Coca after rivers breached their banks due to torrential rains, causing flooding and widespread destruction in Carapongo Huachipa, Lima, Peru

By Mariana Bazo

CARAPONGO, Peru (Reuters) – On the outskirts of Lima, hundreds of householders salvage scant belongings in what is left of their homes after the Rimac River burst its banks in recent weeks amid Peru’s worst flooding disaster in decades.

Many of the hardest hit are those who can least afford it – poor Peruvians who built their homes on cheap land near the river, which runs from Peru’s central Andes to the Pacific coast.

Simeona Mosquera contemplates her uncertain future, standing in what once was her front room and is now a ruin of mud and debris.

A children's bike leans against a wall covered in mud after rivers breached their banks due to torrential rains, causing flooding and widespread destruction in Carapongo Huachipa, Lima, Peru,

A children’s bike leans against a wall covered in mud after rivers breached their banks due to torrential rains, causing flooding and widespread destruction in Carapongo Huachipa, Lima, Peru, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

The 74-year-old market seller fled in the night after a neighbor told her the waters were rising dangerously, but did not think anything would happen to her house.

“When I returned the next day I saw my sofa to one side, part of the house on another side, everything all over the place, everything destroyed,” she says. “I thought, am I dreaming or is this happening?

“I lost my sofas, my bed, my cupboards, my children’s documents … there is nothing left.”

Furniture that can be recovered is perched precariously on parts of brick walls, among the only remnants of nearby homes.

Across Peru, dozens have been killed and tens of thousands displaced after sudden warming of Pacific waters off the coast unleashed torrential downpours in recent weeks. It is part of a localized El Nino phenomenon that is forecast to stretch into April.

In what’s left of Carlos Rojas’ house a pink sign reading ‘Baby Shower’ hangs on a wall, one of the few things not coated with mud. It was for a party a couple of months ago for his baby daughter, the mechanic says. He brushes down a salvaged mattress. Not much else is left.

“All the things that cost me a lot of effort to earn went in no time at all,” say Rojas. “There’s no choice but to start again.”

(Click on to see a related photo essay)

(Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)