Sacramento

Montecito

2 MILES

—Streams

Thomas Fire burn scar

—Debris flows visible in valleys

Montecito

Mudslides flowed

downhill toward

the ocean

Pacific Ocean

—Airplane contrail

—Streams

Thomas Fire burn scar

—Debris flows visible in valleys

Mudslides flowed

downhill toward

the ocean

Montecito

Santa Barbara

Carpinteria

Pacific Ocean

2 MILES

—Airplane contrail

—Streams

Thomas Fire burn scar

—Debris flows visible in valleys

Mudslides

flowed downhill

toward the ocean

Montecito

Santa Barbara

Carpinteria

Pacific Ocean

2 MILES

The coastal California city of Montecito is reeling after nearly an inch of rain fell within fifteen minutes on Tuesday, triggering mudslides that have killed more than a dozen people, with more unaccounted for.

Thomas Fire extent

2 MILES

Montecito

Santa

Barbara

Summerland

Mandatory evacuation zone

Area currently off limits to facilitate the ongoing rescue and recovery operation since much of it remains unstable because of flooding, debris flow, downed trees and power lines.

Evacuation zones issued

before the mudslides

Mandatory

Voluntary

First issued by Santa Barbara County at

12 p.m. Monday. The mudslides began in the early morning hours Tuesday.

Thomas Fire extent

Montecito

Santa

Barbara

Summerland

Evacuation zones issued

before the mudslides

Mandatory evacuation zone

Area currently off limits to facilitate the ongoing rescue and recovery operation since much of it remains unstable because of flooding, debris flow, downed trees and power lines.

Mandatory

Voluntary

Carpinteria

First issued by Santa Barbara County at 12 p.m. Monday.

The mudslides began in the early morning hours Tuesday.

2 MILES

Thomas Fire extent

Montecito

Santa

Barbara

Summerland

Evacuation zones issued

before the mudslides

Mandatory evacuation zone

Carpinteria

Mandatory

Voluntary

Area currently off limits to facilitate the ongoing rescue and recovery operation since much of it remains unstable because of flooding, debris flow, downed trees and power lines.

First issued by Santa Barbara County at 12 p.m. Monday. The mudslides began in the early morning hours Tuesday.

2 MILES

The area sits at the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains and closely escaped the recent Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in California’s history.

25 MILES

Detail

Santa

Barbara

CALIFORNIA

Montecito

Area burned by

Thomas wildfire

Sacramento

Los

Angeles

Pacific Ocean

Detail

One-day precipitation, Jan. 9

3 inches

or more

1 inch

1 MILE

—Thomas Fire extent

Public safety

exclusion zone

 

 

Montecito

Summerland

Hillside slope

Less

More

1 MILE

25 MILES

Detail

Santa

Barbara

CALIFORNIA

—Thomas Fire extent

Montecito

Area burned by

Thomas wildfire

Public safety

exclusion zone

 

 

Sacramento

Los

Angeles

Montecito

Pacific Ocean

Summerland

Detail

One-day precipitation, Jan. 9

Hillside slope

3 inches

or more

1 inch

Less

More

1 MILE

25 MILES

Detail

Santa

Barbara

CALIFORNIA

—Thomas Fire extent

Montecito

Area burned by

Thomas wildfire

Public safety exclusion zone

 

 

Sacramento

Los

Angeles

Montecito

Pacific Ocean

Detail

Summerland

One-day precipitation, Jan. 9

Hillside slope

3 inches

or more

Less

More

1 inch

The Santa Ynez Mountains, just north of the city, are rugged, with steep terrain. The one-two punch of the Thomas Fire and the heavy rains produced prime conditions for mudslides.

[How the harrowing Thomas Fire planted the seed for California’s deadly mudslides]

Plants

Rain

ABOVEGROUND

Bugs

Leaves

Roots

TOPSOIL

UNDERGROUND

Carbon-rich fuel — such as trees, plants, roots, leaves and bugs — are above and below ground in the topsoil. Healthy soil can absorb and pass water to the underground.

Fire

ROCKS, ASH

AND CLAY

Fire destroys the carbon-rich fuel and leaves behind such materials as rocks and clay, above and below ground.

Rain

Flooding

WATER- REPELLENT

SURFACE

Dirt loses porosity and the ability to absorb and hold water, increasing the risk of flooding and mudslides.

ABOVEGROUND

Rain

Fire

Rain

Plants

Flooding

Bugs

ROCKS, ASH

AND CLAY

WATER- REPELLENT

SURFACE

Leaves

Roots

TOPSOIL

UNDERGROUND

Fire destroys the carbon-rich fuel and leaves behind such materials as rocks and clay, above and below ground.

Dirt loses porosity and the ability to absorb and hold water, increasing the risk of flooding and mudslides.

Carbon-rich fuel — such as trees, plants, roots, leaves and bugs — are above and below ground in the topsoil. Healthy soil can absorb and pass water to the underground.

Rain

Rain

Fire

Plants

ABOVEGROUND

Flooding

Bugs

ROCKS, ASH

AND CLAY

WATER- REPELLENT

SURFACE

TOPSOIL

Leaves

Roots

UNDERGROUND

Fire destroys the carbon-rich fuel and leaves behind such materials as rocks and clay, above and below ground.

Carbon-rich fuel — such as trees, plants, roots, leaves and bugs — are above and below ground in the topsoil. Healthy soil can absorb and pass water to the underground.

Dirt loses porosity and the ability to absorb and hold water, increasing the risk of flooding and mudslides.

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As of Thursday morning, rescue teams continue to work through the rubble and mud searching for survivors. Thousands of area residents are without water or power and may remain so for days. No further rain is forecasted for the next several days.

Emergency personnel carry a woman rescued from a collapsed house after a mudslide. (Kenneth Song/Reuters)

A home is damaged by mudslides in Montecito, Calif. (Kenneth Song/Reuters)

About this story

Rainfall data from NOAA. Fire perimeter from GEOMAC. Evacuation zones from County of Santa Barbara. Satellite imagery from NASA Earth Observatory

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