Wednesday, January 10, 2018 - 10:00

(TNS) - At least 13 people were killed Tuesday when a rainstorm sent mud and debris coursing through Montecito neighborhoods and left rescue crews to scramble through clogged roadways and downed trees to search for victims.

The deluge that washed over Santa Barbara County early Tuesday was devastating for a community that was ravaged by the Thomas fire only a few weeks earlier. In just a matter of minutes, pounding rain overwhelmed the south-facing slopes above Montecito and flooded a creek that leads to the ocean, sending mud and massive boulders rolling into residential neighborhoods, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason.

At least 25 other people were injured, authorities said at an afternoon press conference. Crews rescued 50 people by air and dozens more from the ground.

“It’s going to be worse than anyone imagined for our area,” Eliason said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Following our fire, this is the worst-case scenario.”

The deaths came after a heavy band of rain struck around 2:30 a.m., causing “waist-high” mudflows, Eliason said.

Late Tuesday, about 300 people remained stuck in their homes in Montecito’s Romero Canyon neighborhood after impassable roads halted rescue operations, officials said.

First-responders plan to launch aerial rescues at daybreak for those residents, all of whom are safe.

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