Calif. mudslide phone alert didn’t go out until floods started
An emergency cellphone alert about the deadly mudslides in southern California didn’t go out until the devastation had started, officials said.
Residents in Santa Barbara County didn’t receive the alert telling them varying evacuation orders were issued for the region until 3:50 a.m. Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Mud was already pulling trees and rocks down barren hills in Montecito, where 17 people have been killed because of the devastation. Eight people remain missing, officials said, including sisters Morgan and Sawyer Corey.
The cellphone revelation comes as rescue efforts continued Thursday, as crews from all parts of California scour mud-ravaged areas of the affluent enclave.
Santa Barbara officials toiled over sending the cellphone alert earlier, out of fear no one would take it seriously.
“If you tell everyone to get out, everyone get out, the next time people won’t listen,” Jeff Gater, emergency manager for Santa Barbara County, told the LA Times. “If you cry wolf, people stop listening.”
Unforgiving fires in recent weeks burned up the natural terrain that would push back mudslides, which have been exacerbated by torrential rain.
Sisters Sawyer, left, and Morgan Corey are among those missing after the mudslide.
Beside the cellphone alert, officials fired off up to 200,000 warning messages — and pushed information on its website and in the media — before the mudslides picked up Tuesday, Gater told the LA Times.
Those who stayed told the newspaper they disregarded the warnings after the December wildfires — some of the worst in the state’s history.
“Mother Nature came back and dealt us a big blow, but it’s our fault,” resident David Cradduck told the LA Times. “We should have heeded the warning.”
Three people were rescued by helicopter after being trapped in Montecito, a town of about 9,000 people. Homes — including one owned by Oprah Winfrey — were pummeled by mud and debris.
Deadly mudslides sweep through Southern California
Search crews from all over California are pitching in to search houses for any missing people.
About 75% of the hit area had been searched by 500 rescuers as of Wednesday night, officials said.
Kelly Weimer’s elderly parents, Jim and Alice Mitchell, were among those who decided not to evacuate.
She returned to their home — where they stayed to celebrate Jim’s 89th birthday Monday — in hopes of finding them.
At least 17 people have died and more than 100 homes were damaged.
“It’s just waiting and not knowing, and the more I haven’t heard from them — we have to find them,” she said.
Just 10% to 15% are estimated to have heeded evacuation orders — many of which were voluntary — in the buildup to the devastation, according to the Associated Press.
Sawyer, 12, and Morgan Corey, 25, were sleeping in their home when the mudslide hit early Tuesday, according to People. Their mother, Carie Baker, and Sawyer’s twin sister, Summer, were rescued and brought to a nearby hospital.
A man who identified only as Mikey told the LA Times on Wednesday he was a boyfriend of Sawyer and Morgan’s sister as he trudged through the mud looking for them.
Search crews from all over California have converged on the area to give assistance.
“They are good people,” he told the newspaper. “I’m hoping to find them.”
Gater, the Santa Barbara County official, told the LA Times he wasn’t sure if an increase in alerts during the early hours of Tuesday would’ve helped.
“A lot of people don’t listen to their phones when they go to bed,” he said to the newspaper. “That’s why we messaged people on Sunday for something that was 30 hours away.”
With News Wire Services