California officials rush to clear mudslide debris fearing second storm

By Daniel Uria  |  Updated Jan. 14, 2018 at 2:47 PM
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Jan. 14 (UPI) -- California officials are rushing to clear debris from last week's deadly mudslides in advance of another possible storm, as two more people found dead Sunday.

Santa Barbara County Emergency Management Director Rob Lewin on Saturday said blocked drainage channels in the Montecito area could lead to "more mud and flow" even if a storm of "less intensity" hits the area.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office announced officials found 25-year-old Morgan Christine Corey and one other person dead Sunday, bringing the death toll up to 20.

Four people remain missing following the Tuesday storms and mudslides.

The mudslides destroyed or damaged hundreds of properties, and clogged drainage basins and channels with debris, possibly resulting in even greater mudflow in the event of another storm.

"We have got to get those basins cleared as fast as we can," Lewin said. "We have got to get those channels ready or we're going to have more mud and flow under a storm that would be of less intensity."

Weather Channel senior meteorologist Frank Giannasca said California is expected to experience mostly dry weather in the next seven days, with a slight chance for light rain Friday.

"We're into a little bit of a dry pattern over the next few days," Giannasca said. "There's a possibility of some rain showers around Friday but it doesn't look like anything of significant consequence, relatively light showers."

Highway 101, a major north-south artery that carries 100,000 vehicles through California, Oregon and Washington daily, was expected to reopen Monday but will remain closed indefinitely as officials clean up in the aftermath of the mudslides.

"It's really an overwhelming situation and we don't want to give an estimate that isn't accurate," said California Department of Transportation spokesman Colin Jones.

Crews from the department, aided by private contractors and the Army Corps of Engineers, have been working to "dewater" standing rain and mud on the freeway using pumps.

Once the mud and debris are removed, the pavement and overpasses will be tested for structural safety before crews restore guardrails and road lines.

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