California Mudslide Victims ID’d as Crews Continue Survivor Search

The oldest victim swept away in a California mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice.

The youngest, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, was one of four children killed.

As their names and those of 14 other victims were released Thursday, crews kept digging through the muck and rubble looking for more people.

The number of reported deaths from the mudslide has reached 17.

“At this moment, we are still looking for live victims,” Santa Barbara fire Capt. Gary Pitney said. But he confessed: “The likelihood is increasing that we’ll be finding bodies, not survivors. You have to start accepting the reality of that.”

At least 13 Dead as Heavy Rains Trigger Flooding, Mudflows and Freeway Closures Across Southern California

(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.

Rains Finally Arrive, Bringing New Danger in California's Vast Fire Zones

REPORTING FROM MONTECITO, Calif. — In the mountains above coastal Santa Barbara County, the vegetation is typically so deep and lush that it can soak up a half-inch of rainwater before it flows downhill.

But that was before the Thomas fire swept through in December, burning those trees and brush to the ground. Now, the rain has no buffer, and that is cause for alarm.

"It hits the dirt directly and it is instant runoff and carries that sediment," Thomas D. Fayram, the deputy public works director for the county, told concerned residents at a community meeting several weeks ago.

Southern California is about to get its first significant rainstorm in nearly a year this week, with more than 4 inches of rain expected in burn areas.

Mapping the Post-Wildfire Landslide Risk in California’s Burn Zones

California’s rainy season last year may have replenished reservoirs in most parts of the state after a long, crippling drought, but the precipitation largely bypassed an area northwest of Los Angeles, in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Santa Barbara is now in its seventh year of drought and there are worries that similar conditions will return elsewhere in the Golden State.

Under these difficult circumstances, incoming rain—like the heavy precipitation that’s expected this week in parts of Southern California—would be welcomed as good news. But that’s not necessarily the case in the areas impacted by recent wildfires, including Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, where upwards of 4 inches of rains is predicted through Tuesday evening in some spots.

Oroville Dam Repairs Concern Calif. Residents

Construction of a new spillway at the Oroville Dam in northern California—the largest dam in the U.S.—is underway and is expected to be completed sometime in 2018, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The dam replaces the previous spillway, which was damaged by heavy flooding in February.

Problems at the Oroville Dam began, when the dam’s main sluice was damaged after a winter season of record rain and snowfall, following five years of drought. Torrential rainfall caused water levels to rise so quickly that large amounts needed to be released to prevent the dam from rupturing and sending a wall of water to the communities below.

Researchers say federal flood risk data ‘severely underestimates’ real risk

Research conducted by a team of U.S-U.K. scientists and engineers shows federal flood maps underestimate at-risk Americans by more than 27 million people.

The group is called Fathom, and they presented their research at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Meeting on Dec. 11 — research they say fills in “vast amounts of missing information” in current federal flood risk assessments.

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