California mudslides: Death toll rises to 20

Lydia Sutthithepa

The response effort in Montecito has transitioned from search and rescue to search and recovery, and the area was busy with heavy equipment from first responders and utility companies Monday.

Jim Shivers, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, says much of the water has receded, allowing crews working around the clock to focus on removing solid material from the roadway.

Four people remained missing after the mudslides were triggered January 9 by a powerful storm that swept in from the Pacific and dumped a deluge on mountain slopes that had been burned bare by a huge wildfire in December.

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Officials hoped to have an estimate Monday about when USA 101 would reopen, Shivers said.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Sunday the transition will allow authorities to release resources that are no longer needed as the operation moves at a slower pace.

The San Ysidro Ranch has not said whether it was affected by the mudslides but closed earlier this year due to damage from the Thomas Fire. Amtrak said it was adding rail cars to each of its five daily roundtrip trains between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara to accommodate commuters grappling with the ongoing closure of USA 101.

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With many surface streets also shut down, the only other ground route into the Los Angeles area - located 90 miles down the coast - was a series of smaller mountain highways that add more than three hours to the trip.

Though the number of Montecito homes insured outside the government program was unavailable, it is the dominant source of flood coverage nationally.

Thousands of people gathered Sunday night in prayer in a candlelight vigil for the 20 people killed by last week's massive mudslides in Southern California. The statement said the president will monitor the situation as cleanup and recovery moves forward almost a week after flash floods ripped through the coastal community. "We can just pray they find those poor missing people".

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She noted that the area is west of Sheffield Drive/East Valley Road/Ladera Lane, east of Olive Mill/Hot Springs Road, north of the ocean, and south of the U.S. Forest Service boundary. Earlier Monday, the White House released its first statement on the devastating Montecito mudslides, almost a week after the first deaths were recorded.

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